Britons stick to the lockdown and fear health risks when it ends

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(May 29): People in the U.K. are broadly abiding by the 10-week-old lockdown but remain worried about contracting Covid-19 and are increasingly fearful of losing their jobs, a study showed.

The survey for King’s College London found that 41% of adults left their homes fewer than five times in a seven-day period, despite the evolution of the government message from “Stay Home” to “Stay Alert” and the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions. One in seven adults, or 14%, did not leave their homes once during the week of the survey, while 23% of parents said their children were also permanently at home.

As the U.K. presses ahead with plans to ease restrictions and reopen businesses in the coming weeks, the figures suggest Britons are getting used to the lockdown and have incorporated social distancing measures into daily life. Fear of increased deaths due to Covid-19 was the primary driver of compliance for 64% of respondents.

Against a backdrop of debate over the actions of senior U.K. government aide Dominic Cummings, who police said on Thursday may have breached lockdown rules, the survey also shows that new daily habits have formed, some of which could take time to shift once restrictions ease. They include a decline in the use of public transport, with 82% of respondents saying they shunned mass transit.

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, called the level of public compliance “extraordinary” and suggested that it helped explain the anger at Cummings’s road trip to Durham, northern England. That “stands in stark contrast to their own extreme compliance, often for the sake of others, including those beyond their own family,” he said.

Some 20% of workers now believe they are fairly likely to lose their jobs because of the pandemic, a rise of six percentage points since a previous survey in April. Overall, 30% of workers now say they are fairly likely, very likely, or certain to lose their jobs, up from 26%.

Prof Duffy said health concerns were winning out over the threat of long-term economic impact. “The public’s continued focus on saving lives and protecting health means the government may struggle to coax some people out of lockdown when the rules are eased further,” he said.

IpsosMORI surveyed 2,254 U.K. residents aged 16-75 between May 20 and May 22.

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