In-person data collection should not necessarily be ruled out in all settings. All organisations should undertake a risk assessment prior to any data collection and this should be aligned with national guidelines and be consistent with other organisations working in the same setting. When making decisions about the safety of in-person data collection, consider potential risks to communities and staff and take a cautious approach - if data can feasibly be collected remotely then this option would be preferable during the pandemic. Use the checklist in this document to help you make this decision.
What measures can be put in place to make in-person data collection safer?
If in-person data collection is considered safe in your setting, given the stage of the outbreak, then preference should be given to one-to-one interviews conducted outside, but in a private location, while maintaining the appropriate physical distance. In some settings it may also still be safe to conduct focus group discussions or group interviews. If this is the case, group discussions should not include more than 5 people, they should bring together only people with existing interactions (e.g. neighbours or others living in the same compound) and they should be conducted outside in a private location in close proximity to their homes (minimising the need to travel). If group discussions are being undertaken then participants should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water before starting the discussion and at the end of the discussion and should be seated so that physical distancing is maintained (e.g. at least 1m between each participant). Depending on government recommendations/existing local guidelines in the country where you are working, participants may also be required to wear masks (these should be provided by your organisation and participants should be advised on how to use them safely). In addition, group facilitators should be reminded to avoid:
Customary greetings such as shaking hands or other greetings that require physical closeness (e.g embracing). To be cautious not to offend, the facilitators should explain to participants that they are doing this to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Participatory activities that require participants (other than the facilitator) to touch things.
Giving out food, drinks, or other items.
In addition to the data collection activities themselves, it is important to consider safety when asking data collectors to attend in-person training and/or to travel to data collection sites - is public transport safe, and if not, what are the safer alternatives? Consider if training can be done remotely instead and, where possible, recruit data collectors from the same area or nearby areas to where the data is to be collected.
For more information about doing in person data collection safely see this resource. This is designed with high-income settings in mind but some of the principles are adaptable to low and middle income settings as well.
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