Fewer than half of people in England understand coronavirus lockdown rules, study finds

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:12 31 July 2020

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street; PA Video/PA Wire

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street; PA Video/PA Wire

Fewer than half of the people living in England say they have a “broad understanding” of current lockdown guidelines.

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A study by the University College London found that just 45% of adults in England understand current government guidelines compared with 90% back in March when stricter rules were imposed.

Levels in Scotland and Wales have also fallen but are higher than those in England, with reported levels of understanding at 75% and 61% respectively.

Complete understanding has fallen even further, with only 14% of adults in England reporting a full comprehension of the rules as lockdown eased, compared to 18% in Wales and 27% in Scotland.

Launched in the week before lockdown started, it is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health with over 70,000 participants who have been followed across the last 19 weeks.

Researchers discovered that fewer people have been accessing healthcare services during the lockdown.

In fact, one in 10 Britons reported not wanting to talk with a GP about their physical health and one in 20 avoided conversation about their mental health while a staggering one in five would not tell their GP about feeling ill even if they usually would have done.

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The report found that groups who faced the most barriers were younger adults, women, individuals from BAME backgrounds, and people with physical and mental health conditions.

People with a mental health condition were significantly more likely not to speak to a mental health professional when they usually would have done because support services were unavailable.

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt from UCL’s Epidemiology & Health Care department said: “Our study shows that as lockdown measures have eased at different rates in each nation of the UK, levels of understanding around what is and isn’t permissible have dropped, especially amongst younger adults.

“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.”

Cheryl Lloyd, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation, which helped sponder the study, 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 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.”

The team behind the survey say depression and anxiety levels, life satisfaction, and happiness have all shown improvements but that there has been little change in people reporting major or minor stress due to catching Covid-19, unemployment, finance, or getting food.

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