Four in ten Britons expect the current measures to last for six months or longer—what does that mean for what's next?by Bobby Duffy / April 15, 2020 / Leave a comment
The light at the end of the tunnel is very faint, but growing. The daily count of new cases of the virus is slowly decreasing, the first step before hospital admissions and deaths fall.
But national economic forecasts are getting darker. And more attention is shifting to the wider impacts of the current extraordinary social distancing measures, on inequality and the vulnerable, and the other “fights” we’ve put on hold, for example, cancer diagnoses and treatments.
The terrible balancing act between these risks is starting to take centre stage, as the government tests the ground on the timing and approach to our exit from the “lockdown.” And this is going to be a much more difficult public debate than the one we had going in.
There are reports that some in government are surprised at how completely we’ve complied with the new rules. Apparently, they were counting on a little more rebellion, or at least a more liberal reading of the guidance.
Instead, what we’ve seen is near-universal backing for the lockdown, as a major new King’s College London study has shown. Nine in ten of us still support the measures, including seven in ten who strongly support them. In twenty-five years of studying public opinion, I’ve hardly ever seen seven in ten Brits strongly support anything. The major exception is our longstanding and deep love for the NHS, which points to one key reason behind our compliance.
Another major factor is our view of the risk. A lot of my work has focused on how clearly people see social realities such as crime rates and regular health risks, like obesity. And we’re usually hopelessly wrong. But, on average, we have an incredibly accurate view of the main impacts of the virus, for example, guessing that the death rate was doubling every three days, and mirroring official views of the possible total death toll.
And where we’re wrong about coronavirus, we tend to be more worried than the currently very scant data suggests we should be. For example, 30 per cent of us expect that we’ll need to be hospitalised if we catch the virus. We don’t yet know what the real figure for this will be, because we have tested such a tiny proportion of the population.…