Coronavirus: Big majority ‘uncomfortable’ returning to everyday activities

EY Future Consumer Index shows about three quarters not comfortable in gyms

About three-quarters of people would be uncomfortable partaking in a range of everyday consumer activities due to fears related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey.

The EY Future Consumer Index, which was published on Monday, shows 78 per cent of people would be “uncomfortable” going to the cinema, with one in five “extremely uncomfortable”.

Some 76 per cent of people would be uncomfortable with exercising in a gym, with 21 per cent extremely uncomfortable. In terms of going to a bar, 74 per cent would be uncomfortable, with 22 per cent extremely uncomfortable.


Almost three out of every four people feel uncomfortable about travelling on public transport, with one in five extremely uncomfortable.


The figures indicate that the coronavirus crisis and people’s heightened hygiene awareness have resulted in the vast majority of consumers feeling uncomfortable with a whole range of everyday consumer activities.

Seven out of 10 people expressed discomfort about eating in a restaurant, while 22 per cent expressed extreme discomfort.

Some 68 per cent said they would be uncomfortable trying on clothes in a store, while 21 said they would be extremely uncomfortable.

Elsewhere, 65 per cent said they would be uncomfortable going to a shopping centre, with 28 per cent extremely uncomfortable. Just over six in 10 said they would be uncomfortable going to a hairdresser, with just under a quarter extremely uncomfortable.

The figures were better in terms of shopping in a grocery store with just 37 per cent uncomfortable and 23 per cent extremely uncomfortable.

"It's clear from our research that the general population's caution in relation to Covid-19 is being subconsciously applied to their thought process around communal spaces and social activities," said Yvonne Kiely, head of EY-Seren Ireland.


“People’s heightened hygiene awareness has manifested itself in a widespread aversion to close proximity for longer duration activities such as cinema visits, or where there is a chance of water droplet transmission in places such as gyms and public transport, or where there is an element of social and collective responsibility, such as going to a bar.

“While the majority of these establishments haven’t yet had the opportunity to show us how they will navigate and prioritise our safety, we can expect to see them reopen and significantly adjust how they interact with consumers through innovative enablers.”

Ms Kiely said these would include booking engines, cancellation clauses, temperature checks, contact tracing, and the use of data to make the transition “as easy and effortless as possible” while also being transparent.

“We are seeing this already through innovations and the acceleration of concepts such as drive-in cinemas and video-enabled exercise classes,” she said.

“The good news for business operators is that what may have been previously unthinkable in terms of consumer responsiveness to change has been roundly challenged.

"We have seen the evidence of this in how people have responded to the health and wellbeing instructions given to us by the Department of Health, the chief medical officer, and the HSE, so the opportunity to innovate and evolve has never before been stronger."

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter