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September 2020

Significant drop in public confidence in Government handling of pandemic

Health Foundation warns that the Government must urgently clarify its public coronavirus guidance, particularly on who people can meet and where

New data shows a significant change in the public’s perceptions of towards the Government’s handling of COVID-19 and the measures it has taken to tackle the outbreak so far.

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI for The Health Foundation shows public approval of the pandemic has dropped since the previous poll in May, and half the population feels current measures do not go far enough.

While nearly four in five think the guidance on wearing face masks on public transport is clear (78%), only 44% think official advice on who and how many people you can meet is clear (54% think the advice is unclear). 

When asked about their perception of how well people are following official Government guidance, people feel the guidance on self-isolating and wearing face masks on public transport is being followed the most (64% and 63% respectively). Over half (57%) of respondents feel that people are not following guidance well on staying safe outside the home, with 59% saying they don’t think guidance around visiting places such as pubs and shops and attending public gatherings is being followed well. In areas where people think the guidance is clearest, more people are thought to be observing the rules.

The new data also shows that there has been a significant decrease in how well the public feel the Government has handled the pandemic. Over half (56%) think the Government has not handled COVID-19 well, compared to 39% in May. When asked about their views on the different measures the Government has taken to tackle the pandemic, significantly fewer people feel the Government’s response is about right (40%) than in May (58%). Similarly, 50% now feel the measures the Government has taken do not go far enough and more should be done, compared to 37% in May.  

Despite the drop in support for the Government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, there is strong public support for going further than the existing measures to tackle the pandemic. One in two people feel that the measures the Government has taken do not go far enough and more should be done. Only 33% of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds think the measures are about right – compared to 40% overall – which is perhaps unsurprising given that black and minority ethnic groups are among the worst affected by the virus.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said: ‘Managing the pandemic is a complex and changing task, but this survey shows declining public confidence in how the Government is handling the situation. The survey shows the public are willing to support further measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic, but many are still unclear on what precautions they need to take. Increasing confidence in and clarity from the Government will be critical as we face further risks from COVID-19 this winter.’

Practice Nurse 2020;50(7). Online only