May 4, 2020, 2:27 p.m. EDT

Just after Elon Musk denounced coronavirus lockdowns as infringements of freedom, research shows Britons are too scared to leave their homes anyway

People are so scared that neighbors will spread the virus that more than 200,000 have called the police to report rule breaking by their fellow citizens

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By Rupert Steiner

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An electronic billboard at Piccadilly Circus in London displays an advertisement thanking Britain's emergency services for their dedication during the pandemic.

A campaign to keep Britons locked down and protected from the coronavirus may have proved too successful, according to new research , with many now scared to leave their homes.

A leading Cambridge University statistician warned that the government’s stay-at-home message had caused many people to grow “particularly anxious” about going out.

“Many people are definitely overanxious about their chance of both getting the virus and the harm they might come to if they do get it,” Cambridge’s David Spiegelhalter told the BBC .

Fully one-third (33%) of Britons said they would feel uncomfortable meeting friends and family outside their household, according to polling released by research firm Ipsos Mori on Friday. Just under two-thirds (61%) said they would feel uncomfortable using public transport or going to bars and restaurants. The data also showed 67% saying they would feel uncomfortable attending large public gatherings, such as sports or music events, compared with how they felt before the pandemic.

Keiran Pedley, research director at Ipsos Mori, said: “Clear majorities of Britons are nervous about using public transport again or going to bars, restaurants or live music and sporting events.

“These numbers suggest that it will take some time for parts of the British economy to return to any semblance of normality, even after lockdown has ended.”

It’s a very different story in parts of America as protesters in Michigan stormed the state capitol demanding an end to lockdown, and Tesla’s /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA +4.60%  Elon Musk told investors on Thursday that stay-at-home orders were “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes against all constitutional rights.”

Read: Elon Musk says coronavirus shelter-in-place order is ‘fascist’ and ‘breaking people’s freedoms’

Britons, meanwhile, are not only scared for themselves but are so fearful neighbors might spread the virus more widely that 200,000 of them have called the police to tell tales about fellow citizens breaking the rules.

According to a report in the Times, police investigating illegal house parties and public loitering have issued 9,000 lockdown fines in England and Wales.

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Rupert Steiner is Barron's Group bureau chief for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

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