Public expects easing of restrictions to be slow

Most don't see return to normality until 2021
  • Deborah Condon

With just days to go before the start of phase one in the Government's Roadmap For Reopening Society and Business, a new study has found that people expect the lifting of social distancing restrictions to be slow and gradual.

According to the findings from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), people believe that most indoor social activities will not be possible until at least September and there will not be a return to ‘normality' until 2021.

The roadmap involves five phases, the first of which begins on May 18. However, all phases are subject to review based on the latest public health data available.

The ESRI study, which involved 800 adults, was carried out the week before the Taoiseach announced the roadmap. It found no evidence that a significant proportion of the public expected a quicker lifting of restrictions.

In fact, if the roadmap deadlines are met, this would amount to a much more rapid lifting of restrictions than the public expected before its publication.

For example, most expected schools, sports facilities, gyms, arts and cultural centres, and pubs to remain closed until at least September.

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.

The findings show that while people want to see the restrictions on social contact beyond the household lifted first, they also feel that necessities like workplaces, services and transport should take priority over leisure activities.

The clearest example of this relates to pubs and restaurants. The opening of these ranked high for personal benefit, but were low on the list for when people think these restrictions should be lifted.

"Such responses suggest that many members of Ireland's population are willing to continue to forgo improvements to their immediate wellbeing and instead to prioritise the lifting of restrictions that they believe would be, collectively, more beneficial," the researchers said.

Overall, just 28% of people believe that life will have returned to normal before the end of 2020. However, men anticipate a more rapid return to economic and social activity than women.

"This study reveals further evidence of Ireland's ability to pull together at a time of crisis. 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," commented Dr Cameron Belton of the ESRI's Behavioural Research Unit.

The study can be viewed here.


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