Rules and advice don’t slow the spread of the virus – human behaviour does | David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters
Surveys can help us understand how the pandemic is influenced by our choices
Recent queues for fuel have shown the consequences of abrupt changes in behaviour. Almost as sudden were the changes around the first lockdown in March 2020, when close meetings between people plummeted by about three-quarters. We know this through the CoMix contact survey from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which has continued to ask UK adults about their “direct contacts”, that is any sort of skin-to-skin contact or anyone to whom at least a few words were exchanged in person. Can you remember how many such contacts you had yesterday?
Pre-lockdown, people reported an average of 11 such meetings a day, but this fell to three afterwards and stayed low. Some warned of the dangers of “freedom day” on 19 July, with some mathematical modelling estimating more than 100,000 cases a day. But the CoMix survey shows there was no exuberant return to socialising and so no subsequent explosion of cases.