Following the ‘Roadmap to Freedom,’ the UK Government is planning to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England on 19 July, after being delayed from the original date of 21 June. On this day, most legal restrictions currently in place will end, including social distancing and mask-wearing, meaning venues such as nightclubs, theatres, and stadiums can open at full capacity for the first time in over a year. The Government’s scientific advisers suggest that the vaccination programme has weakened the link between coronavirus cases and hospitalisations, though fears of a third wave are surfacing amid a dramatic rise in cases across the UK, leaving much of the British public divided on whether the UK should be opening up.
Indeed, the latest research from Redfield & Wilton Strategies reflects this division: 41% of Britons support and 37% oppose the lifting of all domestic restrictions on 19 July, whilst 19% neither support nor oppose the measure.
Younger respondents show the highest level of support for lifting coronavirus restrictions, with almost half (48%) of 18-to-24-year-olds supporting the move to lift all domestic restrictions, along with 44% of 35-to-44-year olds and 41% of 25-to-34-year olds. Interestingly, a plurality (43%) of those aged 65 and over also support lifting restrictions, which may be related to the high rate of double vaccination among this demographic.
Meanwhile, 55-to-64-year-olds are the most likely to oppose lifting restrictions, as half (51%) are in opposition. A plurality (41%) of 45-to-55-year-olds oppose lifting restrictions as well, compared to 37% who support the measure. These results demonstrate that age plays a significant role in the British public’s division over the 19 July lifting of coronavirus restrictions, with respondents’ vaccination status and vulnerability to the virus (both of which relate to their age) likely being factors that impact their views.
There also appears to be an element of political division on the matter: a majority (53%) of 2019 Conservative voters support the lifting of domestic restrictions, whilst a plurality (46%) of 2019 Labour voters oppose it.
Amidst considerable public support for lifting restrictions on 19 July, a plurality (39%) nevertheless believes that the Government has been somewhat or excessively impatient in their approach to lifting restrictions. Alternatively, 32% believe the Government has struck the right balance, and 29% think its approach has been somewhat or excessively cautious. A previous poll conducted in April 2021 found that a plurality of 43% believed the Government had struck the right balance in its approach to easing lockdown restrictions, against only 26% who thought the Government was being somewhat or excessively impatient.
Again, this question garners responses that are divided along party lines: among 2019 Conservative voters, a plurality (45%) thinks that the Government has struck the right balance, whilst a majority (51%) of 2019 Labour voters think the Government has been too impatient in its approach to lifting restrictions.
With respect to post-restrictions life after 19 July, pluralities report they would feel safe eating or drinking inside at a restaurant or pub (48%) or attending an outdoor sporting venue (46%) without social distancing. However, a plurality of respondents say they would feel unsafe using public transport (49%) and majorities would feel unsafe attending indoor entertainment venues such as theatres and cinemas (51%) or going to a nightclub (67%), which may spell trouble for these hard-hit industries as they reopen.
Finally, a majority (54%) of the British public thinks it is likely that another lockdown will be imposed in 2021, compared to 22% who think it is unlikely and 19% who think it is neither likely nor unlikely. Half (50%) of 2019 Conservative voters and a majority (63%) of 2019 Labour voters think another lockdown is likely, revealing a lesser degree of political division in this regard.
Ultimately, despite the considerable support for the UK Government in its lifting of coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, the British public does not appear wholly optimistic. A plurality of respondents think the Government has been too impatient in its approach to lifting restrictions, and a majority would feel unsafe attending theatres, cinemas, and nightclubs once social distancing has been lifted. Even with the legal end to coronavirus restrictions in sight, Britons remain cautious about returning to ‘normality,’ with a majority anticipating a return to lockdown some time in 2021.