Covid 19: Numbers of people in Wales sticking to the rules ‘drops by a third’
The number of people sticking rigidly to Covid rules in Wales has dropped by up to a third, according to new resarch.
One expert who has analysed the results said there was concern that “mixed messages” about the virus may have led to confusion.
One study by University College London suggests complete compliance with Covid rules fell from 60% in February to 40% in May.
The Welsh government said the emergence of new variants made it clear the pandemic was not over.
Another ongoing study by Public Health Wales (PHW), which quizzes people on how the pandemic and Covid restrictions are affecting their wellbeing, also suggests complete compliance with rules has dropped – from 76% in March to 65% in May.
Dr Simon Williams, from Swansea University, said the figures from the research also suggested that the proportion of people mixing outside their family households or bubbles had also increased in Wales, from 41% of people meeting with three or more people in March, rising to 57% in May.
However, while sticking tightly to all the rules has dropped, the UCL study – which has spoken to 70,000 people across the UK during the pandemic – said the vast majority of people told researchers they were “mostly following the rules”, at 91% for the UK as a whole.
The latest public engagement survey by PHW, which has spoken to 18,000 people since the start of the pandemic, said the proportion of adults “very worried” about catching Covid had dropped massively since the start of the year – falling from 31% to just 8%.
It comes as well over two million people in Wales have now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, and over a million have been completely vaccinated.
It means Wales is ahead of every country in the world with similar populations for Covid vaccines.
Spealing to the BBC, Dr Williams, who is a senior lecturer in people and organisation at Swansea University’s School of Business, said: “Overall, there is a picture emerging that we can see over the last couple of weeks, certainly the last few months, there has been a dip in compliance,” said Dr Williams,
“I think a large part of that is a lack of clarity over where we are in the pandemic.
“It’s a classic case of mixed messages. We see at a UK level the message that there is an irreversible roadmap, that we are going to open up further in June.
“At the same time, we are seeing and hearing about the rise in these new variants.”
This bank holiday weekend we need your help to #KeepWalesSafe. The emergence of the Variant of Concern first identified in India is a reminder that we should still be mixing outdoors rather than indoors, staying 2m apart, washing our hands regularly & wearing a face covering. pic.twitter.com/gUovaqD5Nw
— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) May 29, 2021
At the end of May, there were 58 cases of the so-called Indian variant of concern detected in Wales, according to PHW.
There have been 30 more cases sequenced of the B.1.617.2 variant – the one of concern – in the most recent week.
They had been detected in all health board areas except Powys, but were primarily in traceable clusters in Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan, according to health officials.
In the latest of it steps to ease restrictions, the Welsh government announced on Friday that live music could return, with venues needing risk assessments in line with hospitality and performing guidance.
The next review of restrictions in Wales is due on June 3.
The Welsh government says that, if conditions remain positive, its next review will consider further changes to meeting people in private homes and increasing the number of people who can meet outdoors.
Dr Williams said: “Despite recent easing, we are not out of the woods yet and so governments need the tone to be as clear as possible in their communication that we still need to be cautious, but they also need to ensure that further easings are not introduced before we have this new variant under control across the UK.
“Mixed messages – an urging for caution while also relaxing measures – has caused confusion which, in turn, might have a negative impact on compliance.”
Responding, a Welsh government spokesman said: “It is thanks to the efforts of everyone that Wales has the lowest rates of coronavirus in the UK.
“But the pandemic isn’t over and the emergence of the so-called Indian variant of concern is a reminder to us all just how quickly the situation can change and that this virus is full of unpleasant surprises.
“We continue to urge people to follow the set of simple measures, such as keeping your distance; washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering indoors and ventilating indoor spaces, to keep you, your loved ones and Wales safe.”