British front-line workers who were applauded on doorsteps in the early weeks of the pandemic now confront a torrent of polarization and misinformation.

Doctors, teachers and other exhausted workers say they are feeling incredibly demoralized after reading social media posts insisting Covid-19 is a hoax or overblown. And that has had serious, real-world consequences in recent weeks, with demonstrators picketing hospitals and hurling abuse at health care staff.

Some researchers say the polarization between British people who are sucked in by these ideas and those who aren’t is becoming more extreme — and in turn more like the United States.