Less than half of people in England understand the current coronavirus rules, compared to 90% during the stricter lockdown period, a study suggests.
Researchers found that as measures eased at different rates across the UK, levels of understanding of what is and is not permitted dropped, particularly among younger adults.
Some 45% of those surveyed reported having a “broad understanding” of the measures in England, according to an ongoing study of more than 70,000 adults carried out by University College London (UCL).
This is compared to 75% in Scotland and 61% in Wales – where rules were relaxed at a different pace – and 90% across the UK during the strict lockdown period.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: “This could possibly reflect difficulties in applying the rules to more complex life scenarios amongst younger adults, or may be reflective of the different amounts of time spent following the news on Covid-19 amongst different age groups.
“The general drop-off in understanding could be due to unclear messaging from the Government, or a reduction in interest and engagement from people, especially with the cessation of the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing in late June.”
The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling during the pandemic.
It also found that access to healthcare has fallen, with one in 10 people across the UK reporting being unable to see or speak with a GP about their physical health.
Around one in 20 were unable to speak to a professional about their mental health, while one in 5 reported not telling a GP about symptoms of an illness when they usually would have – even when an appointment was available.
Meanwhile, researchers said depression and anxiety levels, life satisfaction and happiness have all shown improvements across every socio-demographic group.
Loneliness levels have also decreased further, but there is little change in people reporting major or minor stress due to catching Covid-19, unemployment, finance, or getting food, according to the study.
Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said: “With concerns growing over a second wave of Covid-19 it is concerning that many people in England report not understanding the current Government guidance.
“As another Nuffield-funded study by the Reuters Institute has shown, people are less likely to access news about Covid-19 on a daily basis now that lockdown has eased.
“With the rules changing regularly, this may be a factor in the public not understanding the Government guidance.”