Researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine discovered respondents had seen roughly the same number of people
The ‘rule of six’ and 10pm curfew are likely to have had “zero effect” in reducing contacts, the first scientific study of the policies suggests.
Researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) surveyed thousands of people to find out if they had met fewer people since the new rules were implemented.
For the ‘rule of six’, nearly one third said they had fewer contacts, while 26 per cent said they had seen more people.
However, the majority of participants saw the same number of people, and there was no change in the overall mean number of contacts for the whole group between the two time periods.
Likewise for the 10pm curfew, researchers found ‘near identical’ numbers of people had increased and decreased their contacts since it was implemented.
Local restrictions were also found to have made little difference to the number of contacts, with just seven fewer contacts for every 10 people, or less than one each.
In contrast, the full national lockdown in March reduced the average daily contacts from about 10.8 to 2.8.
The Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is believed to have advised against implementing the 10pm curfew, and the new study was co-authored by Prof John Edmunds, a prominent member of Sage.
“We determine that the ‘rule of six’ and encouraging people to work from home has seen the average person reduce contacts but these reductions are likely small,” the researchers conclude in the paper, which is yet to be peer reviewed.
“There was little suggestion that the 10pm closure has affected the number of contacts that participants make outside home, work and school.
“In contrast to national restrictions, there was a strong suggestion that local restrictions reduced the number of contacts individuals make outside of work and school, though again, this effect was small in comparison to the national lockdown.”
The Government implemented the ‘rule of six’ on September 14, and imposed the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants 11 days later. But ministers have been unable to produce any scientific evidence to support their decision.
Determining if restrictions are effective has also been difficult because it can take weeks for changes in infection rates to show up in testing and hospital admissions.
However, the LHSTM has been surveying members of the public since March to gauge contacts in the last 48 hours and found the majority of people had not changed their contacts, meaning the restrictions are unlikely to have a significant impact on bringing down the reproduction number, or R Rate.
Separate research also suggests that the risk of picking up coronavirus in larger gatherings differs widely across the country.
A new interactive tool, developed by scientists at Georgia Tech University in the US, shows the chance of someone having coronavirus at a 10-person event is around 12 times higher in Nottingham than in West Sussex.
The chance of an infected person attending a 10-person event in West Sussex is currently just three per cent, according to the tool, compared with 35 per cent for in Nottingham, because of the current prevalence of the virus.
Likewise, the chance of a Covid-19 positive person being at a 50-person gathering in Somerset is just one in eight (13 per cent), versus an almost nine in ten (86 per cent) risk in Liverpool.
The model, originally designed to demonstrate the dangers of large gatherings during the US football season, has been expanded to display the risks of event sizes across the UK, Italy and Switzerland.
Joshua Weitz, Prof of biological sciences and physics at Georgia Tech, who helped create the map, said it could be used by individuals to decide if they want to visit a local pub or restaurant, or by policymakers to impose more localised lockdowns.
“If you know that there was a one in four chance… that someone in that pub or restaurant, or gathering had Covid-19… I would hope that would change someone’s behaviour,” he said
He also said that areas with a lower risk should not think they have “carte blanche” to meet in very large groups without mask wearing.
“But it does imply that depending on the region there are absolutely different risk levels (for) large gatherings and that really does reflect ongoing and heterogeneous differences in circulating infections.”
Elsewhere, the risk of encountering someone with Covid-19 at a 50-person event in Blackburn with Darwen, for example, is around four times higher than in Bromley (85 per cent versus 23 per cent).
While the chance of someone having the virus at a 50-person gathering in County Durham is around 50 per cent higher than in Suffolk (18 per cent versus 67 per cent).
In Lancashire, the risk of a Covid-19 positive person being present at a 25-person event is more than double that of neighbouring North Yorkshire, 47 per cent versus 20 per cent.
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World news – GB – Rule of six and curfews likely to have ‘zero effect’ on reducing contacts