Saturday, December 4

Covid-19 survey: blocking supported, but not indefinitely

A new poll of New Zealanders shows general support for lockdowns to eliminate Covid-19, but has warning signs about the population’s patience for future restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.

Downtown Auckland at the start of the Level 4 lockdown in August.

Downtown Auckland at the start of the Level 4 lockdown in August.
Photo: RNZ / Nik Dirga

The results were overwhelming when Research New Zealand asked Kiwis what we should do to manage Covid-19, with 70 percent saying they support the closures. For many people, however, that provision only extends until the vaccination goal has been reached.

Research NZ surveyed 1,000 people over the age of 18 from September 17-20, asking them two questions: whether they thought the country should continue to use closures as an elimination tool, and whether vaccination should be mandatory for certain groups.

Research NZ Managing Director Emanuel Kalafatelis discussed the report with Sunday morning.

“We wanted to assess whether the public thought New Zealand should continue with the goal of eliminating Covid through shutdowns,” he said.

“And then the second question revolved around measuring the level of agreement that vaccination should be mandatory for certain front-line groups, foreign visitors, customers in restaurants and bars, and businesses if they requested it from their workers.”

Of the 70 percent who support the running of the bulls, 47 percent support them only until the vaccination goal has been reached. Support also varied by region, Kalafatelis said.

“If you compare Auckland to the rest of the country, there is a lower level of support for the continued lockdown. In Auckland it is 66 percent, compared to Wellington, where it is 79 percent, for example.”

There was also less support in Canterbury for the closings, at 67 percent.

Nineteen percent of those surveyed were against the closures, but still wanted some precautions, according to the survey.

“While they say they don’t want to continue with the lockdowns, many of them want to have strict rules on the use of masks, testing and MIQ.”

When it comes to opening New Zealand’s borders, 79 percent of respondents thought they should only be opened to those with vaccination passports and a recent negative test.

James and Nigel Cottle from Crave Cafe.  Nigel Cottle said he expected to sell 200 cheese buns today with Auckland on his first day of Level 3

The survey showed support for some mandatory vaccines, but less so for companies that require them.
Photo: RNZ / Jean Bell

For mandatory vaccinations, the results varied widely depending on who you were talking about. When it comes to frontline health and quarantine workers, 85 percent said they should be required.

But when it comes to other sectors, such as teachers and child care workers, 78 percent said vaccination should be mandatory.

The results generally left a core of about 10 to 15 percent who did not want any mandatory vaccinations, Kalafatelis said.

“Some people will obviously be mad at that particular result. One in five is not a number to scoff at.”

When asked if companies should be able to require vaccination of employees, the numbers supporting it dropped sharply to just 57 percent.

There was “significantly less support for that,” Kalafatelis said. “About one in two said that companies should be able to decide whether to make vaccination and testing a requirement for continued employment.”

Only 50 percent agreed that restaurants and bars should only serve vaccinated customers, while 32 percent were against and 18 percent were unsure.

“The result is polarized, I think it would be much more fair to say it, and there are many people who do not agree with that.”

When asked if New Zealand should remove all restrictions (masks, quarantine, and the batch), 7 percent of respondents agreed. While it is a small number, “it is not insignificant,” Kalafatelis said.

“We may have a group of anti-vaccines that are represented in the seven percent … but we also know, given some of our other results, that a third of people will support people who are not vaccinated.

“They will not expect the country to impose restrictions on what they can do and where they can go just because they are not vaccinated.”

A protester confronts police during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on September 18, 2021.

A protester confronts police during an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on September 18, 2021.
Photo: AFP or licensees

Australia has seen violent protests in recent weeks over the lockdown restrictions, but Kalafatelis said he hopes New Zealanders don’t behave that way.

“I just hope New Zealanders are a little more reasonable and controlled in terms of their emotions and reactions.”

Research NZ will conduct another survey in the future as vaccination rates change, Kalafatelis said.

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