Identifying Targets For Interventions To Support Public Adherence To Government Instructions To Reduce Transmission Of SARS-CoV-2

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Background: SARS-CoV-2 lacks sentience and can only be spread through human behaviour. Government instructions to the general public include: (a) limiting time spent outside the home, (b) staying more than 1 m away from people outside the household at all times, and (c) maintaining hand hygiene. Current evidence suggests high rates of adherence to such instructions, but interventions to sustain adherence to government instructions in the long term can only be developed if we know why people do or do not adhere to them. The aims were to assess levels of public adherence to government instructions to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but more importantly to gauge why people were or were not adhering to instructions. Methods: Cross-sectional survey of 2252 adults who were representative of the UK population. Data were analysed descriptively, and using one-sample t-tests, within-participants ANOVA and multiple linear regression. Results: The sample reported mostly adhering to UK government instructions to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, with 5% or fewer people reporting active resistance to instructions. People generally reported high levels of capability, opportunity and motivation to follow the instructions, but perceived relatively few physical and social opportunities. Multiple linear regression analyses showed that better adherence was associated with older age, being a woman, having a white ethnic background, and with perceiving greater levels of capabilities, opportunities and motivations. Conclusions: Interventions targeted at people with black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, men and younger people that focus on increasing capabilities, providing greater opportunities and boosting motivations are needed to support continued adherence to government instructions to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Further research is required to track changes in people’s capabilities, opportunities, motivations and behaviours in response to the ongoing emergency, any changes in government instructions, and to adapt the present procedures to other emergency situations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number522
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021


  • Adherence
  • COM-B
  • COVID-19
  • Hand hygiene
  • Intervention
  • Physical distancing
  • SARS-CoV-2


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