Fewer adults in Great Britain are practising preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) compared with earlier in the year, although most still think they are important.

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 39% of adults said they had always or often maintained social distancing when meeting with people outside their household.

This compares with 84% who believed it was important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The percentage of adults always or often maintaining social distancing has fallen from 63% in mid-July, before limits on the numbers of people who could meet indoors were lifted in England. Restrictions on meeting indoors in Wales and Scotland were lifted in early August.

Around 90% of adults said they were always or often maintaining social distancing in January and February 2021, when lockdown restrictions were in place across Great Britain.

In the two weeks ending 17 October 2021, 82% of adults said they had worn a face covering in the past seven days, which is down from 97% in mid-June.

The percentage of adults maintaining social distancing has fallen sharply as restrictions have eased

Percentage of adults practising preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, Great Britain, January to October 2021

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Data download for adults practising preventative measures (XLSX, 11KB)

More than 8 in 10 adults see “hands, face, space” as important in slowing the spread of COVID-19

Most people continue to believe that regular hand washing, use of face coverings and social distancing (“hands, face, space”) are important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Around the same percentage of adults in Great Britain surveyed between 6 and 17 October 2021 said they had worn a face covering as thought it was important or very important to slow the spread of COVID-19 (82% compared with 84%).

However, people were more likely to say that hand washing and social distancing were important or very important than they were to practise the measures themselves.

A total of 91% considered hand washing to be important or very important, while 82% said they washed their hands regularly when returning home.

For social distancing, 84% of adults said it was important or very important in slowing the spread, but just 39% said they had always or often maintained it when meeting with others.

Fewer adults are practising social distancing than think it is important

Percentage of adults self-reporting behaviours and rating them as important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus, Great Britain, 30 June to 17 October 2021

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Data for adults self-reporting behaviours and perceiving them as important (XLSX, 31KB)

Women and older adults place the greatest importance on COVID-19 preventative measures

Men were less likely than women to consider measures such as hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation to be important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 94% of women considered hand washing to be important in slowing the spread, compared with 88% of men. On face coverings, 87% of women and 81% of men considered wearing them to be important.

Meanwhile, people aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged 70 years and over to view social distancing as important or very important (75% compared with 90%).

On all four measures – hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation – young people saw them as less important than older age groups.

Young adults are least likely to consider “hands, face, space” to be important in slowing the spread of coronavirus

Percentage of adults who consider non-pharmaceutical interventions to be important or very important, by sex and age group, Great Britain, 6 to 17 October 2021

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Data for adults perceiving preventative measures as important (XLSX, 38KB)

More than half of working adults are travelling to work

Between 6 and 17 October 2021, 54% of working adults in Great Britain went to a place of work without doing any work from home.

This is the highest percentage for a year and the same as between 7 and 11 October 2020.

Just over 1 in 7 working adults (15%) worked only from home between 6 and 17 October 2021, down from 37% in mid-February 2021 and the lowest percentage since the current survey began in May 2020.

A further 16% both worked from home and travelled to work, similar to levels recorded in June 2021.

The percentage of working adults working exclusively from home has fallen to its lowest level since the first lockdown

Percentage of working adults, Great Britain, January to October 2021

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Data for adults working from home and travelling to a workplace (XLSX, 11KB)

The percentage of adults who think life will never return to normal has increased

While concerns about the effect of coronavirus on people’s lives are falling, the percentage of adults thinking that life will never return to normal is rising.

Around 4 in 10 adults (42%) in Great Britain were worried or very worried about the effect of coronavirus on their lives between 6 and 17 October 2021, down from 78% in early January 2021, when the third national lockdown began.

However, the percentage of adults thinking that life will never return to normal has risen to 12%, up from 3% at the start of the year.

A further 30% think that it will be more than a year before life returns to normal, compared with 20% at the start of 2021.

Meanwhile, 30% are not sure when things will return to normal, up from 16% at the beginning of the year.

Uncertainty about life returning to normal has increased over the summer despite the lifting of restrictions

Percentage of adults thinking life will return to normal, Great Britain, January to October 2021

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Data for adults thinking life will return to normal (XLSX, 11KB)

Related

  • Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

    Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering the period 3 to 14 November 2021 to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain.