Young people are ditching masks and meeting up with more people – but the ‘freedom day’ effect hasn’t translated up the age groups.

New research reveals just 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds are still using a face covering after the legal requirement to wear one in enclosed public spaces ended on July 19.

Before the rule change, 58% of young people reported having used a mask at least once in the previous fortnight.

Polling by Yougov also found the proportion of people in the age bracket avoiding crowded places since clubs reopened has dropped from 38% to 26%.

Buoyed by a return to normality for hospitality and with case rates unexpectedly nosediving, under-24s are reclaiming old freedoms – but much of the country is largely ignoring the rule changes and carrying on much as before.

Over-65s are still overwhelmingly using masks (83%), a figure which has barely changed in recent weeks, and it’s a similar story for other adults.

Mask wearing rates range from two thirds to around three quarters for other adults and have remained fairly consistent since the law changed.

The findings also reveal over-50s are still shunning crowded places, with 42% of over-25s taking increased risks since July 19, down from around a half.

Young people are throwing caution to the wind despite being far less likely to be fully-vaccinated, less likely to use the NHS Covid-19 app and with infection rates still being highest among their peers.

According to the government’s coronavirus dashboard, fewer than a third of adults under 24 have had a first jab and less than 19% are fully inoculated. 

But on Monday, 24,950 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed, the sixth straight day confirmed infections have fallen and down from 54,674 just 10 days ago.

Scientific opinion is split on whether the pandemic is unexpectedly receding or whether the current dip is a temporary result of schools closing and the Euros ending.

Data experts warn it will be several more days until the effects of July 19 are fully apparent and the NHS is under as much pressure now as it was in January.

The Prime Minister is reportedly ‘raging’ at low vaccine uptake among young people and is considering how to use vaccine passports to encourage people to get a jab.

As reported yesterday, ministers are considering plans to make a double-jab mandatory for students who want to live in halls of residence or attend a university lecture in person.

Asked about the reports during a visit to a Surrey police station, the Prime Minister struck a more conciliatory tone.

He said: ‘I think that the young people of this country are doing an incredible job of coming forward to get vaccinations.

‘The figures are outstanding. It’s almost 70% now of 18-20 year-olds who have come forward to get jabs, it’s just wonderful.

‘It is a great thing to do. I would just say that my message to everybody is: get your first jab if you haven’t yet got one, but get your second jab too.

‘It will help protect you, protect your family and help us all to move forward.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

For more stories like this, check our news page.