Public expect easing of Covid-19 restrictions to be slow

People expect the lifting of social distancing restrictions to be slow and gradual, with most indoor social activities not possible until at least September, according to new ESRI research. Most also believe that the lifting of restrictions should prioritise necessities ahead of leisure activities.

The findings are based on data collected the week before the Taoiseach’s May 1st announcement of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. The study found no evidence that a substantial proportion of the public expected a more rapid lifting of restrictions.

All phases of the roadmap are subject to review based on public health data. However, if it proves possible to meet the timetable outlined in the roadmap, this would amount to a substantially more rapid lifting of restrictions than the public expected before the roadmap was published.

The interactive study involved a representative sample of adults in Ireland. They expected non-essential shops and workplaces to reopen gradually between June and August. Most expected cafés and restaurants to reopen in July or August, but schools and indoor leisure venues to remain closed until at least September, including sports facilities and gyms, arts and cultural centres, and pubs and clubs. A return to “normality” is not expected until at least 2021.

The study also asked people to rank restrictions according to which they thought should be lifted first and which, if lifted, would be best for them personally. While people want to see the restriction on social contact beyond the household lifted first, they also think that necessities like workplaces, services and transport should take priority over leisure activities. The clearest example relates to pubs and restaurants, which rank high for personal benefit, but low for when people think the restriction should be lifted.

“This study reveals further evidence of Ireland’s ability to pull together at a time of crisis,” said Dr Cameron Belton of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit. “In the face of this disease, the large majority of people have absorbed the need to proceed slowly and carefully. They are willing to make sacrifices now for a better outcome in the long-run.”