COVID-19 testing acceptability and uptake amongst the Rohingya and host community in Camp 21, Teknaf, Bangladesh

Author/s: Catherine R. McGowan, Nora Hellman, Sayem Chowdhury, Abdul Mannan, Katherine Newell, Rachael Cummings
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Language: English
Publication Type: Scientific report (Journal)(External)

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Abstract
Facility-based sentinel testing for COVID-19 was implemented in May 2020 to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst the Rohingya and host community in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. In response both to low uptake of testing across all camps, and rumours of an outbreak of an influenza-like illness in May/June 2020, the International Organization for Migration (in partnership with ACAPS) undertook a qualitative study to collect accounts from the Rohingya relating to testing and treatment, and to explore the possibility that what was thought to be an outbreak of influenza may have been COVID-19. The report provided rich descriptions of the apprehension around testing and offered some clear recommendations for addressing these. We developed a testing ‘script’ in response to these recommendations, deploying it alongside a survey to determine reasons for declining a test. We compared testing uptake before deploying the testing script, and after (controlling for the total number of consultations), to generate a crude measure of the impact of the script on testing uptake. We coded reasons for declining a test thematically, disaggregated by status (Rohingya and host community) and sex. Despite the small sample size our results suggest an increase in testing uptake following the implementation of the script. Reasons provided by patients for declining a test included: 1) fear, 2) the belief that COVID-19 does not exist, that Allah will prevent them from contracting it, or that their symptoms are not caused by COVID-19, 3) no permission from husband/family, and 4) a preference to return at a later time for a test. Our findings largely mirror the qualitative accounts in the International Organization for Migration/ACAPS report and suggest that further testing amongst both populations will be complicated by fear, and a lack of clarity around testing. Our data lend force to the recommendations in the International Organization for Migration/ACAPS report and emphasise that contextual factors play a key role and must be considered in designing and implementing a health response to a novel disease.

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Conflict and Health