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March 22, 2020

Half of UK adults believe they will be infected: survey

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P
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March 22, 2020

LONDON: Almost three-quarters of people say they have changed their behaviour in response to government guidance on coronavirus, with almost half believing they will become infected, a survey found.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Imperial College London’s Patient Experience Research Centre, was carried after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new social distancing measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

The survey, which aimed to capture public sentiment towards the recommendations announced on March 16, found that 93 per cent of adult respondents took at least one measure to protect themselves from infection. However, while 83 per cent reported washing their hands more frequently, only half said they avoided social events, while 36 per cent said they avoided public transport and 11 per cent avoided going to work.

The survey of 2,108 UK adults on March 17 and 18 found that 88 per cent of people would be willing to self-isolate for seven days if they were advised to by a health professional. But while 60 per cent of professional and managerial workers said they could work from home, only 19 per cent of manual, semi-skilled and casual employees reported that they could.

National Institute for Health Research senior investigator Helen Ward said: “The survey shows that most people are listening to government advice on hand washing, and indicate a willingness to self-isolate if needed.

“However, people were less convinced about the effectiveness of social distancing measures, and fewer were acting on these. While it is encouraging that people are aware and taking some steps to protect themselves and others, there is a need for everyone to take far more action on social distancing if we are to stem the epidemic.”

The survey found that 77 per cent of people were concerned about the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, with 48 per cent of adults who have not tested positive for Covid-19 believing it is likely they will become infected.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents said they had taken some measures to prepare for self-isolation, with 39 per cent stocking up on food and more than a quarter purchasing extra toiletries. While 71 per cent said they had changed their behaviour in response to government guidance, the figure was lower for people aged 18 to 24, at 53 per cent.

Hand washing and avoiding people with symptoms were more likely to be perceived as “very effective” measures to prevent disease spread, compared with measures such as not going to work, the survey found.