The Indian Variant: how concerned are Brits about the latest strain of COVID-19?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
May 14, 2021, 3:47 PM UTC

The rise in case numbers tied to the new variant has reportedly worried the Prime Minister

Public Health England has reported that cases of the Indian variant of COVID-19 (officially called B.1.617.2) have doubled in the past week – something that has the government “anxious” just three days before the next schedule easing of lockdown rules across the UK.

How aware are Brits of the stories around the Indian variant?

The troubling news has caught the attention of many Britons, including some 55% who say they are following the stories around the strain either very or fairly closely. Only 3% of the population say they are unaware of the cases linked to the new variant.

Older Britons are most likely to be following the situation closely, with 71% of the over-65’s paying close attention (including nearly a quarter, 23%, following very closely). Among the 18 -24 year olds, only 29% are following the variant news very or fairly closely, and a further 29% following the stories but not very closely. One in eleven (9%) of these young adults are completely unaware of the variant however.

Two thirds of Britons are concerned about B.1.617.2

Boris Johnson has said the government not ruling anything out in its efforts to limit the spread of the Indian variant, and the majority of Britons share his concern.

Some 69% of the population say they are concerned about the rise in cases tied to the strain – including a fifth (22%) who are “very concerned”. Around a quarter (27%) of people are not concerned.

A clear majority of adults in all parts of the UK express concern at the new variant, despite cases related to variant being currently most prevalent in Bolton, in the North of England, where 67% of people reported concern over the variant.

Britons over the age of 65 are the most concerned, at 82%, including nearly three in ten of this group who are “very concerned”. Half of adults aged under 25 (53%) are also concerned by the rising case numbers, however some 37% are not – the highest proportion among the age groups.

Is the final relaxation of COVID rules on 21 June too much too soon?

The outbreak of the variant has come at a critical time for the UK, as 17 May is set to see many restrictions on meeting indoors and indoor hospitality lifted across England, Scotland, and Wales. Beyond this date is the 21 June relaxation, when COVID-19 restrictions are set to end for good in England.

Despite the new variant, many Brits (44%) still think that the 21 June is about the right time to end COVID-19 restrictions in England, with a third (33%) more cautious and thinking this will be too early.

There is general consensus among the age groups with regards to ending lockdown restrictions in the latter half of next month. There is disagreement among voters, however. Labour voters are split 40% to 39% on whether 21 June is too early or about right, while half of Conservatives (50%) think late June is the right time, and only 29% think it’s too early to call it quits on the lockdown restrictions.

See full results here