About 40% of over-80s in England broke Covid rules after jab

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ONS survey shows two in five people met up with someone indoors when not permitted

Of 2,070 people polled, almost all (99.8%) said they had been offered a Covid jab.
Of 2,070 people polled, almost all (99.8%) said they had been offered a Covid jab. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Of 2,070 people polled, almost all (99.8%) said they had been offered a Covid jab. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Last modified on Thu 4 Mar 2021 17.13 EST

Two in five over-80s in England who have had a coronavirus jab have since broken lockdown rules by meeting up with someone indoors when not permitted, an Office for National Statistics survey suggests.

A similar proportion of over-80s reported having done so within three weeks of receiving a first dose. Three weeks is the period it takes for protection to build after the initial shot.


How England's Covid lockdown is being lifted

Step 1, part 1

In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor. 

Step 1, part 2

In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens. Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed. The official stay at home order ends, but people will be encouraged to stay local. People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

Step 2

In effect from 12 April, non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and some public buildings such as libraries and commercial art galleries can reopen. Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants, but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening are settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will still apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open, but again people can only go alone or with their own household. Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities is also allowed, but only for one household. Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

Step 3

Again with the caveat "no earlier than 17 May", depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens. Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households. Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer. Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

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The respondents were asked whether they had met someone other than a household or support bubble member of personal carer, indoors, since receiving the jab. As a “large proportion” would have received it since the latest national lockdown was introduced, on 5 January, the ONS said respondents who said they had met people not permitted by the rules “would have been breaking lockdown regulations”.

Caroline Abrahams, a charity director at Age UK, said it was not a surprise that some over-80s may not have “abided by the letter of the lockdown guidance”, because many families would have felt the need to visit them to offer support.

She also said loneliness and depression would have led some to conclude that “it’s better to take a calculated risk in this respect than feel profoundly miserable on their own”.

Abrahams admitted: “I broke the rules myself a few weeks ago by helping a neighbour in her 90s understand an official letter that was worrying her. She is bedbound and hard of hearing and insisted on talking to me face to face.

“I was very conscious of the potential risk of infection and took all the precautions I could. It felt like the right thing to do and I imagine many others have found themselves in similar positions.

“When situations like this arise it’s down to us all to be responsible and use our common sense.”

She said she hoped older people’s confidence in the vaccine would help them feel able to engage with society when safe.

The ONS over-80s vaccines insights study, published on Thursday, ran from 15-20 February, by which point the government said it had offered the jab to everyone in the top four priority groups, which include the over-80s.

Of the 2,070 people polled, almost all (99.8%) said they had been offered a Covid jab. Just under half of over-80s who had received both doses said they since met up with someone indoors who was not in their household, support bubble or a care worker.

Asked if the elderly were behaving irresponsibly, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We are asking everybody to continue to follow the rules and guidelines.”

A quarter of over-80s who had received one dose said they would be much or somewhat more likely to attend a hospital for medical reasons since being vaccinated, increasing to one-third for those who had received both doses.

Approximately half of those polled perceived coronavirus to be a major or significant risk to them before receiving any doses, falling to one in five after hypothetically receiving one dose, and one in 20 after hypothetically receiving both doses.