Outdoor activity increasing, but number of close contacts static, study finds

People’s level of worry about coronavirus dropping, according to ESRI report

Signs in the Phoenix Park on social distancing. File photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times

Signs in the Phoenix Park on social distancing. File photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times


There was a significant increase in the number of people going outdoors up to the middle of April but it did not lead to any increase in close contacts, according to new research conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

In its latest Social Activity Measure (SAM) report for Government published on Friday, the Institute’s researchers found that in the week between April 6th and April 13th there were no further increases in visits to the workplace, shops, cafes, or other indoor locations.

“The increase in activity did not involve a corresponding increase in close contacts or meeting people from other households over the previous 48 hours. While the overall average number of close contacts had been steadily increasing up to mid-March, this trend halted in early April,” the report stated.

“Approximately 1 in 5 respondents had a close contact the previous day. This has not changed substantially from March but remains significantly higher than it was in early February.”

It said that close to half of all people continued to meet no one from outside their own household.

The research is based on a a survey conducted among 1,000 people representative of the overall population. It found that a worrying trend in late March of an increased number of people meeting 7 or more people from outside their household was “not sustained” into April.

The research has also found that people’s level of worry about the virus has been declining slowly since mid-February. While the extent to which people found restrictions tiresome remained elevated, three-quarters of those surveyed expect some easing of restrictions during May. However, six out of ten still believe that some restrictions will be in place for nine months or more.

Another key finding is that willingness to receive a vaccine remains relatively high. Of those who had not yet been offered a vaccine, some 80 per cent said they intended to take it.

“This is a small increase since January,” the report found.