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MHP Understanding Covid Terminology – January 2021

Public understanding of terms used in communicating about the COVID-19 pandemic

Almost half the population is unclear what “antigen” or “epidemiologist” mean, while two in five admit they would struggle to explain “circuit breaker” or “flatten the curve”.

Just 20% said they could confidently explain a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is used to detect if someone currently has coronavirus. More than double that number – 45% – said they either could not explain it (21%) or could not do so confidently (24%).

Similarly, 49% could not explain scientific terms such as antigen or epidemiologist, 47% said the same about “antibody”, and 43% about “contact tracing”. While 88% had heard of the “R number”, only 42% said they could confidently explain it, compared with 46% who could not.

Date Published: 25/01/2021

Client: MHP


Savanta ComRes surveyed 2,302 UK adults aged 18+ between 8th and 10th January 2021. Data is weighted to be nationally representative of all UK adults aged 18+ by age, gender, region and social grade.

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