Coronavirus: More than half of British public don’t ‘fully understand’ current rules

Kate Ng
·3-min read
Under a new three-tier system, English cities will be subject to lockdown measures corresponding with the severity of covid-19 outbreaks in their areas (Getty Images)
Under a new three-tier system, English cities will be subject to lockdown measures corresponding with the severity of covid-19 outbreaks in their areas (Getty Images)

More than half of the British public do not “fully understand” the different coronavirus lockdown rules currently in place in their local areas, a survey has found.

Researchers at University College London found that just 13 per cent of people in England felt they fully understood the current rules, with half of adults (51 per cent) saying they understand most of the restrictions.

The picture in Wales is a little better, where 15 per cent “fully understand” and 62 per cent understand “the majority” of the rules. In Scotland this improves slightly to 15 per cent who “fully understand” and 66 per cent who understand “the majority” of measures currently in place.

Overall, there was a slight improvement on the understanding of the rules in July, when a number of lockdown measures were gradually lifted and only 45 per cent of people said they grasped the rules in England.

The findings were discovered in the ongoing UCL Covid-19 Social Study, which is the UK’s largest study into how British adults feel about the lockdown, advice and their overall wellbeing and mental health.

More than 70,000 people have participated in the study, which was launched the week before lockdown started and has continued for the past 30 weeks. The research is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The new figures come after the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told MPs on Wednesday that the new three-tier system was too confusing and urged the government to simplify the rules to make it easier for the public to follow.

Owen Weatherill, from the NPCC, said police were “struggling” to enforce the latest restrictions, which have brought “greater confusion”.

UCL researchers found a slight improvement in the levels of control people felt over aspects of their lives since July. About 60 per cent of respondents felt in control of future plans, compared to 50 per cent in July.

However, people still felt out of control of their mental health, with half of respondents reporting they either did not feel at all in control of their mental health, or only felt a little in control.

In terms of money, there had also been little improvement in people’s sense of financial control with two in five respondents (39 per cent) not feeling properly on top of their finances.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, from UCL Epidemiology and Health Care, and lead author of the study, said: “Levels of understanding around what is and isn’t allowed under current lockdown restrictions have dropped markedly since nationwide ‘strict lockdown’ has ended.

“This issue may well also be exacerbated by the newly introduced system of tiers in England and the differing policies of the devolved nations.

“As well as this potentially leading to people breaking rules they don’t fully understand, confusing messages or unclear communication cold result in people disengaging from trying to keep abreast of restrictions, which could well lead to lower compliance in the long term.

“These developments are especially worrying at a time when the number of cases continues to climb, so it is vital that the government improves communication of lockdown restrictions and ensures they are as simple to understand and follow as possible.”

The study also revealed that people across all age groups have become more stressed about contracting the coronavirus in the past month, with nearly half (45 per cent) of people now worried about either catching Covid-19 or becoming seriously ill form it.

Cheryl Lloyd, head of the Nuffield Foundation’s education programme, said: “While some people have reported an improvement in their mental health and wellbeing since the summer, this study helps us to understand the potential impacts of the tighter Covid-19 restrictions which have begun to come into force in some areas of the UK.

“Indeed, the report shows that over the past few weeks there has been an increase in worries about catching Covid-19 and a slight increase in depression and anxiety for some adults, including those living along and those with lower household incomes.”

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