New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
18 January 2021updated 23 Jul 2021 12:20pm

Londoners aren’t breaking coronavirus rules en masse. They’re terrified

Londoners are just as scared, if not more scared, of the virus than during the first wave, our exclusive Redfield & Wilton polling reveals.

By Ailbhe Rea

How well are Londoners adhering to lockdown rules? After a week dubbed “compliance week” by some in government, with stern warnings against bending coronavirus regulations from senior politicians and the promise of a tougher crackdown on rule-breakers from Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan police, you might have thought that adherence to coronavirus regulations was flagging in the capital. 

But our exclusive polling of voters in London, conducted by Redfield & Wilton, paints a very different picture: of Londoners complying with lockdown rules, and in many cases more terrified of coronavirus than during the first lockdown in March. 

Sixty per cent of Londoners would not feel safe attending hospital for reasons unrelated to coronavirus at the moment, our polling found, as the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared a “major incident” in London because of the rapid spread of Covid cases and the risk of the capital’s hospitals being overwhelmed. A majority would, however, still attend hospital if they needed to, despite these concerns over safety.   

A majority (56 per cent) of Londoners are actively scared of catching coronavirus, with 41 per cent of those polled more scared now than they were in March and April when the pandemic began, and a further 41 per cent just as scared as they were during the first lockdown. This comes amid reports on 8 January that one in 30 Londoners had the virus, rising to as high as one in 20 in some parts of the city.

As for compliance, 75 per cent of Londoners polled have fully complied with lockdown rules, while 25 per cent have “mostly” followed the rules. A majority of Londoners hadn’t seen a single friend or family from another household in the week before they were polled. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

London has been at the centre of the outbreak of the new variant of coronavirus, and was placed under Tier 4 restrictions – in effect a lockdown  along with large parts of south-east England, on 20 December, cancelling the planned Christmas easing for everyone in those areas. There followed pictures and footage of a “mass exodus” from the capital as Londoners were filmed and pictured boarding trains out of the city in huge numbers before the new restrictions came in, despite the explicit message not to do so. But our polling indicates that this was a visible minority, as 74 per cent of Londoners polled did not mix with another household over Christmas.

The polling of the voters in the capital points to a wider truth in our public debate about lockdown compliance: compliance with the rules has been imperfect, but strong, throughout this crisis. We were having a debate about rule-breaking last week with no evidence that any of the behavioural changes we were observing (for example, mobility data indicating more movement than during the first lockdown) was the product of rule-breaking, as opposed to compliant behaviour under less stringent guidelines. 

Meanwhile, as cases rose and shocking scenes from inside hospitals flashed across our television screens, Londoners were sticking to the rules and were just as scared, if not more scared, than ever.  

*Redfield & Wilton polled a representative sample of 1,500 Londoners


Content from our partners
An innovative approach to regional equity
ADHD in the criminal justice system: a case for change – with Takeda
The power of place in tackling climate change