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Time to healthcare-seeking following the onset of STI-associated symptoms during two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Melbourne, Australia
  1. Rebecca M Farquharson1,2,
  2. Christopher K Fairley1,2,
  3. Jason J Ong1,2,3,
  4. Tiffany R Phillips1,2,
  5. Eric P F Chow1,2,4
  1. 1 Central Clinical School, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4 Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Associate Professor Eric P F Chow, Central Clinical School, Monash University, Carlton, Victoria, Australia; eric.chow{at}

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Throughout 2020, countries worldwide introduced various restrictions and measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic. These restrictions were unprecedented and included limitations on social gatherings and reasons for leaving home.

Some studies reported a reduction in STI diagnoses and sexual activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.1–6 Healthcare-seeking behaviour—how and when people seek healthcare—likely also changed due to COVID-19. Individuals may have delayed or forgone sexual health service attendance due to barriers such as fear of exposure to COVID-19 at healthcare clinics.7 8 If this is the case, STI diagnoses may have been delayed or missed, leading to potential increased transmission and negative health sequelae.

Victoria is the only Australian state that underwent two significant lockdowns in 2020. The first lockdown occurred from late March to early May 2020, with restrictions on social gatherings, closure of non-essential businesses and a stay-at-home order. The second lockdown occurred in Melbourne from early July to late October 2020, with the strictest restrictions including a curfew from 20:00 to 05:00, limited daily outdoor exercise, mandatory face masks in public and allowance to travel no further than 5 km from one’s home except where essential. Medical …

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  • Handling editor Anna Maria Geretti

  • Twitter @kitfairley, @DrJasonJOng, @drtrphillips, @EricPFChow

  • Contributors EPFC and CKF conceived and designed the study. RMF conducted the data analysis and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. EPFC assisted with data analysis and provided statistical advice. EPFC and TRP oversaw the project. All authors contributed to data interpretation and read and approved the final version of the manuscript. TRP and EPFC are last coauthors.

  • Funding EPFC and JJO are supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Emerging Leadership Investigator Grant (GNT1172873 and GNT1193955, respectively), and CKF is supported by an NHMRC Leadership Investigator Grant (GNT1172900).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.