Covid restrictions in Scotland and Wales lead to 'puzzling' spike in socialising indoors

Gabriella Swerling
·3-min read
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon - JEFF J MITCHELL /AFP
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon - JEFF J MITCHELL /AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Local restrictions in Scotland and Wales have made people more likely to socialise indoors, Government data suggests. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published weekly data on the social impacts of Covid-19 on Friday – the first set to take into account the three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions in England, covering the period from October 20 to 25.

Researchers found that people living in higher tier areas in England reported lower levels of socialising indoors, while the opposite was true for those under local restrictions in Scotland and Wales. 

According to the latest data, 81 per cent of people living in a lockdown area of Scotland or Wales met two to six people indoors, in contrast to 72 per cent of people who do not live in a lockdown area.

In comparison, the percentage for people living in Tier 1 in England was 86 per cent, with the figures at 75 per cent for for Tier 2 and 73 per cent for Tier 3. 

Last Friday, Wales entered a short national lockdown known as a "fire break", which is set to last until November 9. 

People must stay at home except for very limited reasons and not mix with other households, with non-essential shops and businesses close. Under the Tier 3 in England, the highest level, there is no mixing of households indoors or out.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has introduced a new five-level system which will come into force from November 2.

The new system runs from "level zero", the closest to normality, to "level four", reserved for if cases become very high and the NHS is "at risk of being overwhelmed".

However, six people can meet outdoors, there is no limit on outdoor exercise and the Scottish government will seek to keep manufacturing open.

Professor Robert Dingwall, who teaches sociology at Nottingham Trent University and has advised on Government policy for pandemics, described the ONS data as "very puzzling".

He said: "People in Scotland and Wales who don't live in a local lockdown area seem to be behaving like Tier 3 people in England, while people who live in a lockdown area in Scotland and Wales seem to be behaving like people who live in Tier 1 in England."

He added that the areas outside lockdown in Scotland are largely rural, meaning people might not have as many opportunities to visit each other's houses.

The Scottish areas under lockdown in Scotland may have communities that are more interdependent, meaning people visit each other for mutual assistance in child or elderly care, he said, but added: "That would also apply to many Tier 3 areas in England."

Prof Dingwall said he did not think there was "an obvious explanation in terms of compliance or non-compliance", adding that there is a "generally low level of compliance everywhere, regardless of what official restrictions were in place and wherever people were in the UK".