TV top choice for COVID-19 information, ONS reveals

TV news bulletins are the most common source of information that people use to find out what their local COVID-19 alert level is, above NHS apps and government websites, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The public turns to television broadcasts to find out local alert levels, an ONS study found (pic credit: Getty)
The public turns to television broadcasts to find out local alert levels, an ONS study found (pic credit: Getty)

The ONS report, published on Friday before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a month-long national lockdown for England, reveals that 57 per cent of the public turn to TV news for this information, while only 36 per cent check the NHS COVID-19 app for details of the coronavirus alert level in their area.

One in three (35 per cent) opt to get this information from online and print media, according to the survey of 3,940 adults, which was conducted last week.

Barely one in five (22 per cent) refer to a Government website for this information. And more people rely on radio or word of mouth (18 per cent) than the Government’s postcode checker (15 per cent).

The news will come as another blow to the Government’s COVID-19 comms operation, which has been repeatedly criticised for complex, confusing and contradictory messaging during the pandemic.

A significant proportion of people – one in 20 – do not know what level of restrictions they are supposed to be living under.

And almost one in 10 (eight per cent) admit they do not know what the rules are for their area when it comes to meeting up with others outside their household or support bubble.

Despite repeated Government messaging on social distancing and washing your hands, some seven per cent of those surveyed do not avoid physical contact with others when they leave their homes.

Barely two-thirds (69 per cent) always wash their hands straight away after returning home from a public place.

One in 20 (five per cent) admit to having met in a group of more than six people indoors.

And less than two-thirds (62 per cent) stick to social distancing when they meet up with people outside their support bubble. 

The problems of persuading people to comply with the rules on social distancing come amid growing concern that a significant number of people are falling prey to misinformation about COVID-19.

Earlier this month a major study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal  warned that a 'substantial' number of people accept COVID-19 conspiracy theories and are less likely to comply with public health measures or get vaccinated against the virus.

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