OBJECTIVE: To explore the perceptions of non-adherence to COVID-19 policy measures by self and others in the UK, focusing on perceived reasons for non-adherence.
DESIGN: Qualitative study comprising 12 online focus groups conducted between 25th September and 13th November 2020.
SETTING: Online video-conferencing
PARTICIPANTS: 51 UK residents aged 18 and above, reflecting a range of ages, genders and race/ethnicities.
RESULTS: Participants reported seeing an increase in non-adherence in others and identified a number of challenges to their own adherence to measures. Thematic analysis identified six main themes related to participants’ reported reasons for non-adherence in self and others: (1) Alert fatigue (2) Inconsistent rules (3) Lack of trust in government (4) Helplessness (5) Resistance and rebelliousness (6) Reduced perception of risk and the prospect of a vaccine. Participants also raised concerns that adherence would be impacted by a desire to socialise over Christmas. Two forms of non-adherence were observed: overt rule-breaking and subjective rule interpretation.
CONCLUSIONS: Adherence may be improved by: less frequent and clearer information on COVID-19 to reduce alert fatigue; implementing a more unified set of measures within and across countries in the UK; role modelling good adherence by authority figures; exploring ways to mitigate the impact that events like Christmas vaccine ‘breakthroughs’ may have on reducing adherence.