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Social mixing patterns in the UK following the relaxation of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, July to August 2020: a cross-sectional online survey

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Article numbere059231
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>13/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>BMJ Open
Issue number12
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Objectives: To quantify and characterize non-household contact and to identify the effect of shielding and isolating on contact patterns.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting and participants: Anyone living in the UK was eligible to take part in the study. We recorded 5,143 responses to the online questionnaire between 28 July and 14 August 2020.

Outcome measures: Our primary outcome was the daily non-household contact rate of participants. Secondary outcomes were propensity to leave home over a 7 day period, whether contacts had occurred indoors or outdoors locations visited, furthest distance travelled from home, ability to socially distance, and membership of support bubble.

Results: The mean rate of non-household contacts per person was 2.9 d-1. Participants attending a workplace (adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR) 3.33, 95%CI 3.02 to 3.66), self-employed (aIRR 1.63, 95%CI 1.43 to 1.87) or working in healthcare (aIRR 5.10, 95%CI 4.29 to 6.10) reported significantly higher non-household contact rates than those working from home. Participants self-isolating as a precaution or following Test and Trace instructions had a lower non-household contact rate than those not self-isolating (aIRR 0.58, 95%CI 0.43 to 0.79). We found limited evidence that those shielding had reduced non-household contacts compared to non-shielders.

Conclusion: The daily rate of non-household interactions remained lower than pre-pandemic levels measured by other studies, suggesting continued adherence to social distancing guidelines. Individuals attending a workplace in-person or employed as healthcare professionals were less likely to maintain social distance and had a higher non-household contact rate, possibly increasing their infection risk. Shielding and self-isolating individuals required greater support to enable them to follow the government guidelines and reduce non-household contact and therefore their risk of infection.