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Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making

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Can we do more as individuals to help slow the spread of coronavirus? We ask the experts

Covid-19 infections in the UK are reducing but remain stubbornly high, despite a month of lockdown measures. So could we be doing more as individuals to curb transmission of the virus? A virologist, a psychologist and a public health expert share their views on some of the Covid-19 mistakes that we are all still making.

Focusing on what’s allowed, rather than what’s safe

Even though we’re in lockdown, there’s more scope for social contact than the first time around: for example, in England you can meet a friend for exercise; have cleaners, nannies, or tradespeople in your home; and form various types of bubbles with other households. Such allowances are important for mental health and the economy, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely safe.

A common problem is not connecting the dots between the people you see in one context, and those you see in another. “For instance, young people often feel they can mix freely with their peers, because they know their peers are not at high risk. Then they’ll go and see their grandparents, and be more careful with them – but not as careful as they need to be, given that they’ve been mixing freely with their peers, who’ve been mixing freely with everybody,” said Lucy Yardley, professor of health psychology at the University of Bristol and a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behaviour.

Even if young people avoid their grandparents, but mix freely with their parents, their parents might then go and see the grandparents. “People don’t sufficiently understand how this sort of free mixing in one situation passes on,” Yardley said. It’s not just young people: “I’ve seen interviews with parents who are being really careful in many respects, but then allow their children to mix freely with friends for their mental health, and then also their children to bubble with their grandparents, for the mental health of both the children and the grandparents. I’m sure the parents aren’t wanting to infect the grandparents, but that’s the best way to do it.”

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