What impact has lockdown had on the UK so far?

Coronavirus | Published:

From stronger communities to more quality time with family, we look at the effects of the restrictions.

A boarded-up restaurant in Edinburgh’s Old Town

The UK lockdown, announced by Boris Johnson on March 23, is unlikely to be lifted soon.

With restrictions set to continue, what sort of effects have the measures had already?

– Community

The weeks since the lockdown began have seen an outpouring of support for the vulnerable from individuals and communities across the UK as people come together to help one another through trying times.

An Ipsos Mori survey revealed that 60% of the public have volunteered to help others, whether through delivering shopping to people who are self-isolating, or simply ringing up elderly neighbours for a chat.

Rounds of applause have begun to occur weekly, at 8pm on Thursdays, to express love and gratitude for medical staff and other key workers, while fundraising campaigns have been posted on social media.

– Family


Almost a third of people say they have spent more quality time with their friends and family since the outbreak of the virus, and 36% of over-65s say they have spent more time chatting on video calls, according to market research firm Mintel.

With endless hours to kill indoors, a quarter have engaged in traditional family pastimes such as board games and jigsaws, with puzzle manufacturers reporting sales increases of more than 150%.

However, parents have raised concerns about the long-lasting effects of the lockdown on their children, who are unable to attend lessons or see their friends. Almost half said they worry about helping youngsters with school work, and also about having sufficient food supplies.

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 8, 2020
Freshly cut jigsaw puzzles are bagged up and boxed at JHG Jigsaws Ltd in Ashmore, Dorset, which has seen a surge in demand during the lockdown (Andrew Matthews/PA)


– Health and well-being

The number of people taking part in home workouts has gone up by 26%, including yoga and online classes led by the likes of “Body Coach” Joe Wicks, whose first instalment had more than 800,000 households tuning in live.

However, lockdown stress is clearly having an impact too. More than a third of people surveyed by Ipsos Mori said they are sleeping less well and eating more food or less healthy food than normal, and 19% admitted drinking more alcohol at home, in lieu of access to pubs and bars.

There are also worrying signs for mental health – the day after the full lockdown was announced, researchers from Sheffield and Ulster Universities found in a study that 38% of participants reported significant depression and 36% reported significant anxiety.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) also warned that, due to economic fallout, the number of people of working age suffering from poor mental health could rise by half a million.

– Money

As the lockdown continues, the negative effects on the economy become more profound and experts have said the pandemic could lead to a steeper recession in the UK than the 2008 financial crisis – with double-digit declines in gross domestic product (GDP).

However, it has been suggested that allowing people aged 20-30 to leave lockdown and return to work may reduce the economic damage. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that this would allow 4.2 million young adults to return to work and begin stimulating economic growth.

More positively, almost nine out of 10 people say they are currently saving money by not doing their usual social activities – with millennials benefiting most financially from lockdown and saving an average of £70.35 per week. estimates that Britons have already saved a total of £13.8 billion since the start of the lockdown three weeks ago.

– Supermarkets

Supermarkets have introduced robust measures to help keep staff and customers safe, with some allocating “golden hours” to emergency workers and the elderly, and installing protective screens between checkout assistants and customers.

Markings on the floor at the checkout of a Sainsbury’s store in Peterborough, to implement social distancing measures and help curb the spread of the coronavirus (Joe Giddens/PA)

Others such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco have laid clear two metre markings on shop floors and outside buildings, and most now limit the amount of items that an individual can buy both in store and online.

Independent grocery shops have experienced an unexpected renaissance, benefiting from the often empty shelves and tales of month-long waiting lists for deliveries from major supermarket chains.

– Travel

The travel industry has been almost paralysed by the lockdown, with thousands of planes grounded, trains and coaches suspending routes, and a rapid drop in the use of buses and local rail travel.

However, one of the benefits of this has been a rapid increase in air quality in cities as cars sit idle, and air traffic in the UK is down by almost 90% compared with this time last year, according to the National Air Traffic Service (Nats).

– Work and business

A proliferation of video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype has made remote working much more efficient and reliable, which may result in some workers opting to work from home even after lockdown has ended.

The new tech could also make the workplace more accessible to those previously shut out, such as the less able-bodied.

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