London based online market research agency FlyResearch has been issuing weekly polls to its research panel of over 3000 people throughout the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, in order to project how the outbreak and the implementing of social distancing has been impacting the daily life of UK citizens.
This week, managing partner Greg Ward discusses the findings from wave 30 of the Covid-19 tracker survey with the Leaders Council, published on October 23 and sourced from data collected on October 16, and as more regions begin to fall under tier three restrictions and the autumn weather starts to take hold, the effects on particularly the emotional wellbeing of respondents and their associates became very visible this week.
Indeed, as he began his weekly summary of the figures, Ward revealed that the proportion of panel members affected by Covid had now reached their highest level over the last six months.
Ward said: “As many as 50 per cent of respondents are now affected by the virus in one way or another, with 50 per cent saying that they are not personally affected. Within the 50 per cent of people that are feeling the strain, eight per cent have experienced mild symptoms of Covid.
"This is mirrored by how they feel others around them are faring. 66 per cent now say that their family and friends have had their lives affected in some way, with 11 per cent having had people they know suffer severe symptoms and 13 per cent actually lose somebody to the virus. 16 per cent know people to have suffered mild symptoms, while only 34 per cent are claiming that the people they know have not been impacted by this at all.
“We are also seeing an increase in emotional health issues: it is now at its highest with 41 per cent of the panel telling us that they are struggling. There is also an increase in the emotional struggles of our panel members’ associates, with a current high of 32 per cent saying that people they know are struggling emotionally.”
As it has become clear that emotional struggles are now on the rise, the prevalence of negative feelings being reported has also gone up. The numbers of those feeling angry has increased one per cent on last week’s poll to 32 per cent to sit just one per cent down on the all-time peak, while the proportion of people feeling concerned has risen three per cent to 60 per cent, five per cent short of the peak that was seen back in the very first week of the survey back in March.
Loneliness and desperation are also on the increase, with 14 per cent [a one per cent increase on the previous week] now feeling lonely, and ten per cent [up from eight per cent] now feeling desperate.
Looking to explain the rise in these emotions, Ward said: “We indicated recently that we would like to follow-up on why some of our respondents are feeling desperate and the most prominent factors in this are the government’s handling of things, work and concerns over family wellbeing. We have not seen any changes in the job status of our respondents on average, but of course each personal story differs.”
With regards to the employment status of panel members, 44 per cent [up one per cent on last week] are still employed, the percentage of people furloughed has dropped by one per cent [to eight per cent], three per cent remain redundant consistent with the previous week, three per cent say their business is closed and 38 per cent [a one per cent rise] simply say they are ‘not working’.
Predictably, with the government having been earmarked as a factor for more negative emotions being generated among respondents, opinions on their handling of the whole pandemic remain largely hostile.
Ward highlighted: “We are not seeing any sort of improvement in people’s views on the government’s performance even though they are trying hard to avoid a national lockdown in England. Indeed, on our one to ten scale rating the government’s response, a joint-high of 49 per cent - two per cent more than last week - have scored them in the bottom three, with a high of 26 per cent giving them a rock bottom score of one and saying their whole strategy has been a disaster.
“The percentage of people scoring them in the top three has fallen by three per cent to stand at ten per cent now, with 41 per cent occupying the middle ground of the four to seven range.”
Alongside the deterioration remaining support for the government’s handling of Covid, there has been a clear trend in the increasing proportion of panel members that feel the government is moving too slowly in addressing issues as they arise.
Ward explained: “The rate of people that feel the government is acting too slowly has gone up from 52 per cent to 59 per cent this week. 27 per cent - up from 22 per cent last time out - feel that they are moving far too slowly, while 32 per cent - a two per cent rise - feel they are moving a little too slowly for their liking.
“In our -100 to +100 speed summary, which calculates the overall view of the panel on the speed in which the government is moving, we are now seeing an all-time low of -29 because of this. This suggests that the general feeling is that the government is moving a little too slowly for most people’s comfort, but we are hurtling closer to ‘far too slowly’ since it’s dropped by a further nine points compared to last week.”
The guest question in the latest instalment of the tracker survey considered some of the new practices such as hygiene and safety measures which have come about during the pandemic and sought to uncover which, if any, the panel were likely to want to continue with even if the virus is no longer an issue.
Presenting the findings to this new question, Ward outlined: “Some of the newly acquired behaviours could well be here to stay. 52 per cent have told us that they will continue to wash their hands more often, 48 per cent say that they will keep their distance from others where possible and 37 per cent will wash their hands for longer periods of time when they do so.
“Meanwhile, 34 per cent have said that Covid has made them more health conscious and they will look after their personal health more, and 29 per cent will shop in person less and do more of their purchasing online. 26 per cent took it even further by saying they will visit public places less often in future, while 22 per cent said that they would continue to wear a mask in public places come what may.”