Public Scared at Prospect of Lockdown End

April 28, 2020
Coronavirus | Healthcare | How to Live | Lifestyle

During our latest poll of 1,500 respondents on Sunday, we at Redfield and Wilton Strategies found overwhelming approval for the Government’s decision to extend the current lockdown measures until the 7th of May. This level of support has surprised even Government ministers who had initially resisted a lockdown on the premise that the public would become fatigued with staying at home so long.

Even among those who have made ‘significantly less money’ agreement for this decision was high. Of the 380 respondents who described their job security as at least somewhat at risk, there was even higher agreement with this decision among those who said, yes, their job security depended on the length of the shutdown. About a third of respondents said the current lockdown is having a negative effect on their mental health. Yet, 80% of this group expressed agreement with this decision.

We asked respondents to consider the Government beginning to relax measures on the 7th of May. Here, we found that a majority of respondents would consider doing common activities such as going to the pub, taking public transportation.

It is clear from these numbers that the public is broadly afraid to go outside and return to their normal lives.

When asked how much longer they would be willing to tolerate the current lockdown measures, a plurality of respondents they would accept ‘however much longer the Government deems necessary even if it is beyond the end of July.’ Young people were the least likely to select this answer, while two-thirds of respondents above the age of 65 selected this answer. Notably, a third of those who said the lockdown is having a negative effect on their mental health chose this answer.

As we have reported before, however, it is not the Government that will decide when it is safe for the public to go outside again. Rather, members of the public will make that decision for themselves.

One measure that would help the public feel safer is a requirement to wear masks. 40% of respondents said they would feel safer if nearly all members of the public are wearing masks.

At the moment, only 27% of respondents said they wore a mask to cover their face and mouth in public at all in the last month. 68% said they had never worn a mask, and 6% said they had ‘rarely’ worn a mask.

However, if the Government moved towards merely advising the public to wear masks, 41% say they would ‘always’ wear a mask and 24% say they would wear one ‘quite often.’{If the UK Government advised the public to wear masks or makeshift masks, how often, if at all, would you wear one?}

If the Government went even further and decided to require the public to wear masks, 86% of respondents say they would comply.

When asked why they thought the UK Government had not moved towards requiring the public to wear masks or makeshift masks––when it is clear that a substantial number of people would feel safer resuming their normal activities and when other countries have done so––a plurality of respondents said they thought the Government feared running out of masks for medical workers. 39%, by contrast, thought the Government was genuinely worried masks would not work and would give a false sense of security.

Commentators have noted that this logic does not quite make sense. Even if masks only work sometimes, the probability of transmission between two or more people wearing masks is reduced significantly. Meanwhile, the hypothesized behavioural change (i.e. a ‘false sense of security’) is a second, not first, order effect of which there is so far little to no evidence––it is just conjecture. At the same time, does the Government not want people to feel safer returning to their normal lives as much as possible?

Clearly, people are scared. When we asked those respondents who believe they had not contracted coronavirus so far how concerned they would be if they contracted the virus, 45% rated their level of concern at 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5. This level of concern has only increased since we first asked this question on the 12th of March.

The Government certainly has its work cut out ahead.

This research has also been published online and in print in The Independent.

Data tables for this research can be found here. To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.