Number of Britons meeting friends indoors doubles in first week of eased rules

·3-min read

The number of Britons meeting indoors with friends from outside their bubble doubled in the first week of eased restrictions in England, new figures show.

Almost four in 10 adults (39%) met indoors with people from beyond their household or support bubble between May 17 and 23 compared with one in five (20%) the week before, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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However, the most popular reasons for leaving the house were still activities which were allowed before step three in the Government’s road map out of lockdown.

From May 17 in England, indoor hospitality venues including pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas could resume business indoors, and people were allowed to meet in large groups outdoors or with up to six friends inside.

Among people who said they left their home in the first week of loosened restrictions, the most common non-essential reason was for exercise, including running, walking and cycling, with 49% opting for this, up from 46% the previous week.

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The second most common reason was for travelling to work (41%), followed by meeting friends in a public place (29%).

According to ONS statistics, 17% of people left home to eat or drink indoors at a restaurant, cafe, bar or pub, and 1% to visit indoor cinemas and theatres.

Similar numbers of people reported leaving the house to visit a hairdresser (11%) as those opting to go to the gym (10%) – activities which have been allowed since April 12.

Coronavirus – Mon May 17, 2021
One in 100 people said they took advantage of new freedoms by going to the cinema or theatre in the first week of eased restrictions in England (Ben Birchall/PA)

As people took advantage of socialising more freely, compliance with coronavirus rules remained high, with the rates of people wearing face coverings in public spaces and hand-washing remaining constant at 97% and 87% respectively.

While more intimate contact with people from other households was also allowed from May 17, almost three-quarters of adults (74%) said they maintained social distancing, compared with 78% the week before and 88% in early April.

In a separate dataset, the proportion of people who said they met outdoors with friends not from their household or support bubble fell slightly, with 51% opting to do this compared with 53% the previous week.

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