Are people flouting the UK lockdown? It’s a question that has been asked in the light of the latest Covid-19 survey published by the Office for National Statistics today.
The survey does indeed suggest a slight increase in movement around the country – and a slight loss of what we might call community spirit.
The number of people saying they had worked from home in the last week fell from 49.2% between 3 April and 13 April to 44.6% between 9 April and 20 April.
That may partly reflect changes in individual company policy rather than people’s attitudes to lockdown, with some high-profile stores, for example, beginning to re-open branches.
The proportion saying they “strongly agreed” community members would support them during the outbreak fell from 33.6% to 30.9%, while the number who hadn’t checked on neighbours in the past week rose from 26.0% to 34.5%.
People also seem to be slightly more optimistic about the future given the fall in daily deaths and talk of lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Some 19.2% now expect their lives to be back to normal in three months or less, up from 17.6%.
The proportion saying they expect the general economic situation in the UK to “get a lot worse” over the next year has dropped from 57% to 52.7%.
The words “slight” and “slightly” appear three times in the sentences above – and that’s not an accident.
These are not big changes; they don’t change the overall picture and in some cases the amount of change is smaller than the confidence interval.
In other words, some of the changes might tell us little more than that we’d ideally have a bigger sample size.
Nonetheless, there does seem to be some small movement, an in a consistent direction.
The key question the survey asks – if we are interested in whether the lockdown is fraying – is whether people have only left their home for permitted reasons. This was true of 85.4% of people between 3 to 13 April, and 83.5% between 9 to 20 April.
That suggests “frayed” is pushing it – but it’s still something the UK government will want to watch closely.