Nearly one in five British adults say they do not feel safe in public places due to Covid-19, according to a new poll.
The survey by YouGov found that 18 per cent of people feel unsafe in restaurants, public transport, or other spaces because of the virus.
The think tank which commissioned the survey, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), said the findings could help explain a recent rise in economic inactivity among some adults.
Its researchers point to data showing that people not in work were a third less likely to say they felt safe in public.
Official figures show a marked rise in economic inactivity since the pandemic, with ill health being a major driver, particularly among the over 50s.
Last month the Office for National Statistics published figures show that over summer 2022, around 2.5 million people reported long-term sickness as the main reason for not working. This was a significant rise on 2019, up from around 2 million in 2019.
In his Budget Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, announced a government review into the causes of rising levels of economic inactivity. The term refers to people who are neither in work nor seeking work, and is a separate measure from unemployment.
In its report published on Monday the IPPR said Covid-19 was clearly driving inactivity through people being both less willing and able to go into work.
It called on the government to take steps to boost vaccine take-up, arguing that driving up vaccination rates “would benefit individuals, the NHS as it faces this winter’s ‘flu crisis, and business and the economy more generally”.
Recommendations include creating a legal right to time off to get vaccinated and sick pay in the event of side effects.
The researchers are also urging the government to reinstate its Community Champions programme which pushed vaccine take-up during the pandemic.
And they said a government health disinformation unit should be set up to combat the spread of misinformation about vaccines, including among young people.
Efua Poku-Amanfo, IPPR researcher and lead author of the report, said: “Vaccines are recognised as one of the most effective and cost-efficient health interventions ever created and save millions of lives every year, with over 100,000 deaths in the UK prevented by the Covid-19 vaccine in its first nine months.
“We must continue to harness vaccine’s preventative potential in UK health policy, but their benefits are at risk due to vaccine inequality.
“People on low incomes or from marginalised backgrounds are more likely to face barriers to taking up vaccinations. The government must learn the lessons from the pandemic and focus on structural solutions to tackle vaccine inequality.”