The authors of the study believe the changes in behaviour brought about by the country’s Covid restrictions had a substantial impact on the prevalence of gastrointestinal infections.
According to the article, which was published in BMJ Open, there was a 52 per cent decrease in gastrointestinal outbreaks reported to health agencies during the first six months of lockdown, compared with the five-year average for the same period.
Registered outbreaks fell from 3,208 to 1,544, while laboratory-confirmed cases decreased 34 per cent to 27,859.
The study concludes that if people were to maintain hygiene behaviours picked up during the lockdown, such as social distancing and hand-washing, “we could potentially see sustained reductions in the burden of gastrointestinal illness”.
Professor Martin Marshall, from the Royal College of GPs, told the BBC: “This study makes clear that as we’ve seen with other contagious diseases, such as colds and flu, prevalence of gastrointestinal infection was lower during the pandemic.
“This is likely to be in a large part due to restrictions that were implemented to stop the spread of Covid, and greater adherence to public health measures.
“As we move to the next stages of the pandemic, severe restrictions have been, and continue to be, lifted to allow a more normal way of life, but practising good hygiene measures is something that can and should continue, and really can help people keep well.”