Compliance with Household Restrictions in England Fell with Each Lockdown

Dawn O'Shea

November 25, 2021

Household mixing increased significantly during the third lockdown in England, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

The study, led by Ed Manley, Professor of urban analytics at the University of Leeds, used GDPR-compliant mobile phone data from more than one million anonymous users to examine household mixing across the pandemic, compared to a baseline calculated from average household visits eight weeks before the pandemic began.

The data revealed a 56.4% decrease in household mixing during the first lockdown, which came into force in March 2020. Mixing gradually increased across 2020 as restrictions were lifted.

The decrease was less during the second lockdown (beginning in November 2020), with a reduction in household mixing of just 15.3% in the second lockdown (starting in November 2020) and a decrease of 26.2% in the initial month of the third lockdown January 2021. The authors suggest that these findings indicate that people were effectively 'overcompensating' for their confinement during the first lockdown by subsequently increasing their social activity.

Household mixing varied across regions, with some urbanised areas including London, Manchester and Cambridge associated with increased household mixing.    

A significant increase in household mixing seen in mid-February 2021 (third lockdown) rose above baseline levels by 2.1%, despite national restrictions remaining in place but coinciding with announcements that the most vulnerable citizens had been vaccinated.

The authors propose that the rise in household mixing at that time may reflect the widespread perception of protection conferred by vaccination. However, they add that "lockdown fatigue" may also have played a role.

The study reveals significant spatial and temporal variation in household visitation patterns, impacted by both national and regional policies, and the rollout of the vaccination programme. The findings point to complex social processes unfolding differently over space and time, which were possibly driven by variations in policy adherence, perceptions of vaccine efficacy, and regional interventions.

The authors could not predict any associations between potential future restrictions or booster vaccinations and household mixing.

 

Ross S, Breckenridge G, Zhuang M, Manley E. Household visitation during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Sci Rep. Published 25 November 2021. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-02092-7

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