Two thirds of Britons plan to keep wearing masks this summer after COVID-19 restrictions end

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
May 25, 2021, 8:16 AM UTC

The public also expect to keep using hand sanitiser frequently and avoiding other people when ill

Boris Johnson has confirmed that many coronavirus restrictions will end next week, with the final lifting of the rules planned for 21 June. But YouGov data shows that a majority of the population expect to keep up habits acquired during the pandemic for some time after the last restrictions end.

Two in five people (38%) say they will ‘definitely’ keep using hand sanitiser as frequently as during the pandemic – the highest of all the habits included in the survey – while another 40% say they will ‘probably’ do so.

Despite everyone being vaccinated this summer if all goes well, Britons don’t plan on ditching masks immediately after coronavirus rules lift. Two thirds say they will either definitely (28%) or probably (36%) keep using face masks on public transport and in crowded indoor areas. Among Londoners, the figures rise to 37% who say ‘definitely’ and 36% ‘probably’.

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, has previously said people in the UK are “peculiarly unusual and outliers” for going into work when unwell and making others ill. The data suggests that in the months following the pandemic, Britons will continue to think twice before going to work or meeting friends if they have mild symptoms of a contagious illness like a cold.

But only a quarter (27%) say they will definitely put an end to it, while approaching two in five (36%) are less committal and say ‘probably’. A quarter have no plans to stay home when feeling a bit under the weather, including 11% who say they will certainly not.

The prime minister has also said that from next week social distancing will be a matter of personal choice. Most Britons expect to keep avoiding crowded places as life returns to normal (23% definitely, 40% probably) and social distance in public (20% definitely, 46% probably).

But the nation is split on whether to avoid hugs and handshakes, as they become allowed again for the first time in 15 months. Some 13% say they will positively keep swerving embraces and handshakes for some time to come, while a third (32%) say they’re likely to. But one in five people (18%) say there’s no chance they will continue to avoid embraces, while another quarter (25%) say they probably won’t.

Women are more likely to say they will keep up habits from the pandemic

In nearly every instance, women are more inclined than men to say they will keep doing something that was encouraged during the pandemic in the months after restrictions end. The gap is widest when it comes to using hand sanitiser, with 85% of women saying they definitely or probably will continue the habit, compared with seven in ten men (70%).

Similarly, more women say they will keep social distancing in public (73% of women vs 60% of men ) or wear a face mask on public transport or indoors in crowded areas (70% vs 58%).

See the full results here