UK universities re-opened in September 2020, amidst the coronavirus epidemic. During the first term, various national social distancing measures were introduced, including banning groups of >6 people and the second lockdown in November; however, outbreaks among university students occurred. We aimed to measure the University of Bristol staff and student contact patterns via an online, longitudinal survey capturing self-reported contacts on the previous day. We investigated the change in contacts associated with COVID-19 guidance periods: post-first lockdown (23/06/2020–03/07/2020), relaxed guidance period (04/07/2020–13/09/2020), ‘rule-of-six’ period (14/09/2020–04/11/2020) and the second lockdown (05/11/2020–25/11/2020). In total, 722 staff (4199 responses) and 738 students (1906 responses) were included in the study. For staff, daily contacts were higher in the relaxed guidance and ‘rule-of-six’ periods than the post-first lockdown and second lockdown. Mean student contacts dropped between the ‘rule-of-six’ and second lockdown periods. For both staff and students, the proportion meeting with groups larger than six dropped between the ‘rule-of-six’ period and the second lockdown period, although was higher for students than for staff. Our results suggest university staff and students responded to national guidance by altering their social contacts. Most contacts during the second lockdown were household contacts. The response in staff and students was similar, suggesting that students can adhere to social distancing guidance while at university. The number of contacts recorded for both staff and students were much lower than those recorded by previous surveys in the UK conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere69
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


  • coronavirus
  • behaviour
  • UK
  • contacts
  • statistics


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