Fewer than half of adults spending time with family and friends are fully respecting social distancing measures when they meet up, a survey has found.
Almost 75 per cent of adults polled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had socialised with others during the last seven days, with 50 per cent welcoming family or friends into their homes.
Of the 1,150 people who reported socialising, 47 per cent said they had always maintained social distancing, with this proportion rising to 70 per cent of those aged 70 and over.
Three in 10 (31 per cent) said they often followed the measures, 13 per cent said they sometimes did, while 8 per cent said they rarely or never followed social distancing.
It comes as ministers last night announced people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire were banned from meeting up with each other.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said ‘households gathering and not abiding by the social distancing rules’ was a reason for the stricter rules, announced at 9.15pm last night.
The ONS analysed responses from 1,564 people in Britain between July 22 and 26 about their activities over the past week as part of its Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.
It also found that 57 per cent of respondents support the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops and supermarkets.
People in Scotland and the over-70s were most likely to strongly support the measure.
It comes as it was revealed yesterday that just 45 per cent of people in England have a ‘broad understanding’ of the lockdown rules.
This is compared to 75 per cent in Scotland and 61 per cent in Wales – where rules were relaxed at a different pace.
Researchers at University College London took a survey which found that just 14 per cent of the population fully understands lockdown rules.
They found that as measures eased at different rates across the UK, levels of understanding of what is and is not permitted dropped, particularly among younger adults.
And only 14 per cent in England fully understand the current guidance, compared to 18 per cent in Wales and 27 per cent in Scotland, according to the study of 70,000 people.
Ministers have been criticised for chopping and changing social distancing guidelines and issuing confusing slogans such as ‘stay alert’. Experts have warned that the widespread confusion and mixed messages could contribute to a second wave of the virus.
They suggested that Downing Street’s decision to end the daily press briefings at the end of June means people are less informed and more confused.
Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, from University College London, said: ‘This could possibly reflect difficulties in applying the rules to more complex life scenarios amongst younger adults, or may be reflective of the different amounts of time spent following the news on Covid-19 amongst different age groups.
‘The general drop-off in understanding could be due to unclear messaging from the Government, or a reduction in interest and engagement from people, especially with the cessation of the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing in late June.’
And on Wednesday the head of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, told MPs: ‘If I look at something as simple as our messages on social distancing, we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus.
‘Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.’