Just 45% of us know the lockdown rules – down from 90%, study reveals

Confused, you’re not alone! Fewer than HALF of us now know what the lockdown rules actually are, compared with 90% in March

  • Only 45% of people in England have a ‘broad understanding’ of lockdown rules
  • This is compared to 90% of people in England understanding the rules in March
  • Experts warned mixed messages could contribute to a second wave of the virus
  • The findings were part of a study by researchers at University College London

More than half of us don’t understand the Government’s coronavirus lockdown rules, a study has revealed.

When the restrictions were imposed at the end of March, more than 90 per cent of people in England knew what they were meant to be doing.

But researchers at University College London found that only 45 per cent of people in England now have a ‘broad understanding’ of the lockdown rules.

This is compared to 75 per cent in Scotland and 61 per cent in Wales – where rules were relaxed at a different pace.

Researchers found that only 45 per cent of people in England have a 'broad understanding' of lockdown rules and suggested that Downing Street's decision to end daily press briefings means people are less informed

Researchers found that only 45 per cent of people in England have a ‘broad understanding’ of lockdown rules and suggested that Downing Street’s decision to end daily press briefings means people are less informed

Researchers found that as measures eased at different rates across the UK, levels of understanding of what is and is not permitted dropped, particularly among younger adults. 

And only 14 per cent in England fully understand the current guidance, compared to 18 per cent in Wales and 27 per cent in Scotland, according to the study of 70,000 people.

Ministers have been criticised for chopping and changing social distancing guidelines and issuing confusing slogans such as ‘stay alert’. Experts have warned that the widespread confusion and mixed messages could contribute to a second wave of the virus.

They suggested that Downing Street’s decision to end the daily press briefings at the end of June means people are less informed and more confused.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, from University College London, said: ‘This could possibly reflect difficulties in applying the rules to more complex life scenarios amongst younger adults, or may be reflective of the different amounts of time spent following the news on Covid-19 amongst different age groups.

‘The general drop-off in understanding could be due to unclear messaging from the Government, or a reduction in interest and engagement from people, especially with the cessation of the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing in late June.’

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling during the pandemic.

On Wednesday the head of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, told MPs: ‘If I look at something as simple as our messages on social distancing, we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus. Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.’ 

The study also found that access to healthcare has fallen, with one in 10 people across the UK reporting being unable to see or speak with a GP about their physical health.

The University College London study found that access to healthcare has fallen, with one in 10 people across the UK reporting being unable to see or speak with a GP about their physical health (file photo)

The University College London study found that access to healthcare has fallen, with one in 10 people across the UK reporting being unable to see or speak with a GP about their physical health (file photo)

Around one in 20 were unable to speak to a professional about their mental health, while one in five reported not telling a GP about symptoms of an illness when they usually would have – even when an appointment was available.

Meanwhile, researchers said depression and anxiety levels, life satisfaction and happiness have all shown improvements across every socio-demographic group.

Loneliness levels have also decreased further, but there is little change in people reporting major or minor stress due to catching Covid-19, unemployment, finance, or getting food, according to the study.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said: ‘With concerns growing over a second wave of Covid-19 it is concerning that many people in England report not understanding the current Government guidance.

‘As another Nuffield-funded study by the Reuters Institute has shown, people are less likely to access news about Covid-19 on a daily basis now that lockdown has eased.

‘With the rules changing regularly, this may be a factor in the public not understanding the Government guidance.’ 

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