Coronavirus 'shame' has stopped people reporting symptoms or even properly social distancing, a new report has warned.
Researchers from the University of Kent and Leeds Beckett University said there was a link between feeling shameful and ignoring social distancing guidelines.
It found those who felt stigmatised by having the virus were less likely to report their condition through the appropriate channels - or even tell their family about it.
A student takes a lateral flow test at Weaverham High School in Cheshire on March 9
Where people trusted their government’s COVID response they were more likely to follow guidelines, the study found. It discovered greater compliance in South Korea and Italy, while Americans were more likely to ignore lockdown measures.
Study co-author Dr. Giovanni Travaglino
The study's authors say making people feel shame around contracting the virus may actually have made the situation worse.
Study co-author Dr. Giovanni Travaglino said: 'Our research highlights the importance of managing the stigma associated with Covid-19, which may undermine authorities' efforts to control it.
'When governments and decision-makers make policies and regulations in relation to Covid-19, they should be aware that stigmatizing or blaming people for contracting the infection could potentially backfire.'
It comes as Boris Johnson has said the coronavirus lockdown will be eased on time as 'Happy Monday' looms - but warned freedom 'depends on things going right'.
The PM will begin easing restrictions in two days' time as the 'rule of six' comes back and outdoor sports are allowed. But people were out socialising early today, especially in Borough Market in London which was packed.
Researchers from the University of Kent and Leeds Beckett University said there was a link between feeling shameful and ignoring social distancing guidelines. Pictured, a sign to encourage people to social distance in London
Mr Johnson said he can see nothing in the data to dissuade him from continuing along his roadmap, which would mean no curbs from June 21.
He added: 'I'm going to be able to go down the street and cautiously, but irreversibly, I'm going to drink a pint of beer in the pub.'
But he urged people to remain vigilant, adding there are still unanswered questions about what impact the third Covid wave sweeping Europe would have on the UK.
Britain reported 58 more coronavirus deaths today - the lowest Saturday figure in six months - taking the number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive test to 126,573.
A further 4,715 people have tested positive for the disease, a 16 per cent drop from last Saturday's figure of 5,587, totalling 4,329,180.
People flocked to Borough Market in central London this afternoon enjoying the sunshine in the capital city ahead of the easing of restrictions on 'Happy Monday'
The popular market in central London was crawling with customers on Saturday afternoon - with these stalls looking particularly busy
One week ago, 96 deaths were recorded, meaning fatalities have fallen by 40 per cent in seven days.
Yesterday 694,959 new vaccinations – both first and second doses – were registered across the UK, slightly lower than last Friday's figure of 711,156 jabs, according to Government data.
Mr Johnson acknowledged cases could again spiral as restrictions are relaxed, with the 'stay local' order having ended in Wales and larger outdoor meetings being permitted in England from Monday.
But he said the 'key difference' this time is that the rise in prevalence should be 'sufficiently mitigated' by the successful vaccine rollout.
Meanwhile lockdown-weary Britons threw caution to the wind and left their homes as temperatures started to climb today.
Families, joggers and weightlifters flocked to parks and beaches across the country for 52F (11C) temperatures as the UK braced for near-record 76F (24C) heat next week.
Ahead of the easing of restrictions on 'Happy Monday', police chiefs warned the public to stay vigilant and said next week is not the end of curbs on freedom.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, said complacency risked spreading new Covid variants and could lead to fresh rules.