How the UK's attitude to the government's handling of coronavirus lockdown is changing

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
Approval of Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus outbreak is dwindling, YouGov polling suggests. (AFP via Getty Images)

Approval of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is beginning to dwindle, YouGov polling has suggested.

Since Boris Johnson imposed the draconian lockdown on 23 March, data shows backing for the government has dropped by 14%.

Meanwhile, attitudes to other issues linked to the lockdown – such as hospital procedures and state provision of face coverings – are also changing.

The lockdown is being reviewed on Thursday, with the prime minister making a statement on the UK’s exit strategy at 7pm on Sunday.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

6 charts and maps that explain how COVID-19 is spreading

Here, Yahoo News UK takes a look at how attitudes have changed since Johnson’s landmark announcement back in March.

Support for the government


The percentage of Brits surveyed by YouGov who think the government has handled the outbreak “very” or “somewhat” well is at its lowest point since before the lockdown was imposed on 23 March.

On 20 March, it stood at 59%, rising to 72% on 27 March. Since then, the graph shows support has gradually declined to 58% on 1 May, the latest date for which stats are available.

This reflects the government’s troubles over the UK’s growing death toll, testing procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for health and care workers.

However, Johnson’s ruling Conservatives remain overwhelmingly favoured by the electorate, with an Opinium survey showing 51% of voters support the Tories, while just 33% back Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour.

Support for cancelling routine hospital procedures


The public’s backing for cancellation of routine hospital appointments and procedures has dropped by more than half since the lockdown was imposed.

On 27 March, support was 66%, but this had dropped to 31% on 1 May.

It comes as the number of people admitted to UK hospitals with COVID-19 continues to decrease, from 15,415 to 13,168 in the past week.

Support for providing free face coverings


The government has previously resisted all calls to advise the use of face coverings, citing limited scientific evidence that they are effective.

Last week, however, Boris Johnson all but confirmed he would soon be recommending people to wear face coverings in public, saying they could be “useful both for epidemiological reasons but also for giving people confidence”. 

This change in stance is reflected by Brits surveyed in the YouGov poll. On 27 March, 29% were in favour of the government providing free masks for everyone in the country. This had risen to 42% on 1 May.

There has been no indication the government will be issuing free face coverings.

Support for banning international flights


The polling shows Brits have softened to the idea of the government banning all inbound international flights from countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On 27 March, with lockdown still fresh on people’s minds, support stood at 72%. By 1 May, it had dropped to 55%.

Nonetheless, a ban has never been on the cards in the UK, with an estimated 15,000 people a day flying into the country.

Passengers are not even being subjected to coronavirus screening upon arrival at UK airports, with the government saying this would be ineffective as it can take up to 14 days for COVID-19 symptoms to show.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

Coronavirus: Is working from home affecting our mental health?