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What’s the immediate public reaction to lockdown changes?

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Julian Dailly EVP 12/05/2020

Coronavirus daily tracker: May 12th 2020

How the government’s latest announcement has changed worry levels, outdoor activities, and general wellbeing.

It appears that the vast majority will adhere to the new rules as they did the old ones

On Sunday night PM Boris Johnson announced small changes to the UK lockdown restrictions including unlimited exercise outside, permission to meet one friend from outside your household, and the news that the UK would shortly be introducing quarantine for international travel except for those coming from Ireland or France.

But how have these minor modifications affected us?

So far, not very much.

According to our daily coronavirus data tracker, worry levels remain stable with 46% of us saying we are greatly worried or the most worried ever. This is compared with 50% a week ago (4th May).

Overall, worry levels have been slowly declining (even before the announcement) peaking at 56% in mid-April as we faced our fourth week of lockdown.

Are we still paying attention?

In terms of following government advice, there was little change overnight between Sunday 10th May and Monday 11th May with 82% of us saying we are mostly or entirely following government advice compared with 81% the previous day. We’ll see how this changes over the coming weeks but— initially, at least — it appears that the vast majority will adhere to the new rules as they did the old ones. This figure has hovered around the 80% mark since the lockdown was announced, with only 2% consistently saying they are not following the guidelines at all.

Healthwise, we continue to maintain good physical health (net +2% saying this has improved), while mental health continues to worsen for many (-23%). Will unlimited permission to exercise outside as well as the re-opening of tennis courts and golf courses improve these scores?

Staying in vs. going out

Just over a third of people are self-isolating (36%). Again, this figure has been steadily declining since a peak of 49% in mid-April.

In terms of leaving the house, we actually saw a drop yesterday in the number of people doing so. Rather than spurring people on to ‘stay alert’ and venture out, perhaps the government’s big announcement served to remind people of the seriousness of the situation —with no major changes to most people’s day-to-day lives.

Gloomier weather across the UK on Monday may have also discouraged people from going out; while 54% of people left the house on Sunday, only 44% did so on Monday. The main reasons were to exercise (31%) or go to the supermarket (21%). Seven per cent went out to meet friends or family in an open public space which must surely be expected to increase now the government has explicitly said that this is acceptable.

Despite so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’ setting in for many, the novelty of video-calling has not worn off and 38% of people video-called a friend or family member yesterday.

Sharp fall in PM’s approval rating since Sunday

Unsurprisingly, more than half of us (51%) watched the government announcement live with a further 19% watching later – the highest figure we’ve seen for a while. Normally, the figure for watching the government briefing live is generally around 40%.

Following his speech, Boris Johnson’s net approval rating fell by 13 points — dropping from +25% to +8% overnight.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has seen a similar decline, with his net approval score dropping seven points from 17% to 10%. The government’s overall rating dropped by ten points from 24% to 14%, the lowest scores we’ve seen since tracking began.

However there has been a rise in how well people think the government is supporting various parts of society during lockdown including small businesses (41%)  and employees (31%), which will no doubt be further strengthened by the announcement from Rishi Sunak that the furlough scheme is being extended until at least October.

We will be updating our coronavirus tracker daily and weekly as this unprecedented pandemic unfolds. Please get in touch for more information

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