Throughout the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, London based online market research agency FlyResearch has been issuing weekly polls to its research panel of over 3000 people, to project how the outbreak and the implementing of social distancing and other restrictions has impacted the daily life of UK citizens.
Up until the 32nd week of the Covid-19 tracker survey [published on November 6 and sourced from data collected on October 30], The Leaders Council published a weekly review of the findings provided by FlyResearch managing partner, Greg Ward. However, from that point on owing to the speed of changes to restrictions, the weekly tracker survey switched to a monthly poll with reviews of the findings coming every four weeks. The previous survey and review came following week 49 of the tracker poll, consisting of data sourced from February 26, 2021.
The latest review was sourced from data collected between March 23 and March 29, 2021, and marks one whole year since the first of the Covid-19 tracker surveys was launched back on March 27, 2020.
Greg Ward said: “Of course, who could have predicted last year, when we launched our first survey of this kind, that one year down the line, we would still not only be publishing responses but living under some form of restrictions upon our daily lives? We are thoroughly grateful to all of our respondents on the panel who’ve stuck with us throughout.”
Opting to take the approach of using the latest analysis of results to summarise what has occurred over the course of the last 12 months, Ward noted that much has changed in terms of people’s health and attitudes since the lockdown began.
He said: “A month after the first lockdown we had 55 per cent of people saying that their health had not been affected. The good news is that after a year this has only dropped to 46 per cent, as opposed to the worst-case scenario that one might have imagined. Those with mild symptoms and had not tested positive remained around the 7-8 per cent mark throughout the year. By the end of the year a further four per cent had experienced mild Covid symptoms confirmed by a positive test.”
However, the contrast could not be starker when it came to exploring the impact on mental health.
Ward explained: “The impact on the population’s emotional health has been huge, starting at 31 per cent affected at the start and going up to 42 per cent now. Still, from the end of May 2020 to March 2021, this number only rose from 39 per cent to 42 per cent, indicating that resilience is very much in the British character.
“Understandably, emotions have been all over the place within the last year with increases in the numbers of people telling us that they feel ‘concerned’ being mirrored by decreases in those feeling ‘hopeful’ and vice-versa. Concern was the most prevalent emotion among our respondents with 65 per cent of them telling us they felt this way at the start of the pandemic, with further peaks between September and November 2020 and then again at the end of December 2020 and beginning of January 2021, when we entered a new lockdown.
“Hopefulness peaked at the start of December with 46 per cent of people after the positive news on a vaccine breakthrough, only to drop again almost straight after. It is at 52 per cent now, a slight drop from 56 per cent in February, perhaps dampened by the uncertainly around summer holidays.”
The pandemic has not come without its losses, with one fifth of the panel reporting that they know somebody who has passed away with Covid. Yet, despite such immense disruption to daily life and such a tragic loss of loved ones, the overall employment situation throughout the year has remained steady, as Ward elaborated.
“It does seem that employers have been adapting to the new conditions and making the best possible use of government help. Unfortunately, though, a lot of small businesses have been affected and may never be able to come back, while some big retailers have also taken a hit with permanent store closures and loss of jobs.”
Exploring the aspects of normal life that panel members have missed the most over the last year, the tracker survey uncovered that ability to travel was high on the agenda with 35 per cent of people telling of their disappointment in this area.
Disruption to social life, entertainment and hobbies was a significant miss for 40 per cent of respondents, but the single activity most felt they had been deprived of was simply going to visit friends and family: a massive 67 per cent of the panel reported that the inability to do this affected them. By contrast, a mere four per cent of respondents informed FlyResearch that the pandemic had posed little or no disruption to their daily lives and that life had been largely normal for them.
The next issue of importance that Ward addressed in his analysis was opinion of the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has significantly changed over the course of the last 12 months.
Ward noted: “Opinion of the government at the beginning of this crisis was largely okay, with 88 per cent of the panel scoring their pandemic response a five or above out of ten on our scoring chart. This dropped in the middle of the year with only 50 per cent saying they felt they were doing okay or better, and with the roadmap to lockdown now out in the open it seems that Westminster is slowly regaining the approval of the population with 71 per cent now rating them with a score of five or more. We also put the question to the panel of how over the last year as a whole they felt the government had handled the pandemic in their specific part of the country, and 59 per cent felt that the government strategy had been okay or better overall.”
With the continued success of the government’s vaccination programme well-documented, Ward added that there was now room for some cautious optimism that the worst of the pandemic may have passed.
“With 61 per cent of our panel having reported they have received the vaccine and a further four per cent having booked an appointment to get the jab, we may possibly be through the worst of this, and things may only improve. Admittedly, we have seen three per cent of our respondents tell us that they have or will refuse the vaccine, but things are moving in the right direction.”