Nearly half of people do not fully understand lockdown rules, study finds


Nearly half of the public in England do not "fully understand" the current coronavirus lockdown rules, a study suggests.

Researchers found that around half of adults (51%) in the country said they understand the current Covid-19 restrictions. Only 13% of the respondents said they "fully understand" them.

The ongoing University College London (UCL) Covid-19 Social Study found this was an improvement on the 45% who felt they understood the rules in England in July. Those responses came after lockdown restrictions were firstly significantly eased on July 4.

But it was a significant drop from the initial lockdown period when 90% of respondents said they understood what was and was not permitted.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor at UCL's Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said the findings were "especially worrying" at a time when case numbers were climbing.

"Levels of understanding around what is and isn't allowed under current lockdown restrictions have dropped markedly since nationwide 'strict lockdown' has ended," she said.

"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 could 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."

Covid-19 alert system in England
Covid-19 alert system in England

The study of more than 70,000 people also found that understanding of the rules was lower in England than in both Wales and Scotland.

It said in Wales 15% "fully understand" and 62% understand "the majority" of the rules. In Scotland 15% "fully understand" and 66% understand "the majority".

The levels of control people feel around aspects of their lives have also improved in some areas since July, it added.

Around three fifths of respondents (60%) felt in control of future plans compared with half in July. Meanwhile 70% now felt in control of their employment situation – up from 60% in July.

Despite this the study found people were still feeling out of control of their mental health. Half of respondents (50%) reported they do not feel at all in control or only feel a little in control of their mental health.

There was also a lack of improvement in people's sense of financial control with two in five respondents (39%) not feeling properly in control financially, it added.

The project was launched 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, following more than 70,000 participants over the last 30 weeks.

A Government spokesperson said: "The Government has been working day and night to battle against coronavirus, delivering a strategy to protect our NHS and save lives.

"Throughout this crisis we have set out clear instructions to the public about what they need to do in order to delay the spread of the disease. The vast majority continue to play their part, washing their hands regularly, wearing face coverings and following social distancing rules."

"We also work closely with local authorities to share best practice and insight on communications, and have delivered a paid marketing campaign according to local risk levels in England to ensure our messaging lands locally."