Irish Times poll: Public split on pace of lifting Covid-19 restrictions

Results show stark age divide regarding speed of reopening social and economic life

June 17th, 2021: Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that he wants to see airline travel resume in "as normal a way as possible", adding that NPHET will continue to advise against foreign travel without a Covid-19 vaccine. Video: RTÉ

 

A narrow majority of people say the reopening of social and economic life should proceed quickly, while a significant minority are much more cautious, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll finds.

A large majority also want some precautions – such as the wearing of masks in shops – to remain even after most people are vaccinated against Covid-19.

As restrictions continue to be eased, with further reopening of social and economic life reopening scheduled next month, 50 per cent of respondents say they want the Government to proceed with the full reopening “as quickly as possible”. But 46 per cent say they want the reopening to take place “at a much slower pace”, with 4 per cent not giving a view.

While a majority of those expressing an opinion favour a faster reopening, it is narrow and shows a high degree of caution remains after months of lockdown.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies on Monday and Tuesday. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes, a change from February’s poll which was conducted via telephone because of Covid-19 restrictions. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

On the question of the pace of reopening, the poll shows a stark divide on age grounds. Those under 35 are much more strongly in favour of a quick reopening than older voters, with 61 per cent agreeing that the “full reopening” should take place “as quickly as possible”. Just 34 per cent of that cohort say they would prefer “a much slower pace”.

The situation is almost reversed for those aged over 65. Just 35 per cent of this group favour the “as quickly as possible” option, while 62 per cent favour the “much slower pace option”. Wealthier voters are more likely to favour a quick reopening, as are voters in urban areas.

Travel to North

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Thursday hailed the “near-elimination” of Covid-19 among people who are vaccinated as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said all Covid-19 indicators were improving nationally.

Nphet said the number of Delta variant cases detected here had risen to 188, from 126 last week, but that most of these were being intercepted at or soon after their point of entry into the State.

Dr Holohan said Nphet “may well have to give consideration” to advising against essential travel to Northern Ireland, where cases of the variant are more prevalent. Public health officials from the Republic are due to discuss the issue with their Northern colleagues today.

The poll shows that fewer than one third of voters (32 per cent) agree that life should return “to the way it was before Covid” even after most people are vaccinated. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) say that some precautions should remain in place, such as wearing masks in shops. Older voters remain significantly more cautious on this issue, with 79 per cent favouring continued precautions.

Two-thirds of respondents (67 per cent) say they are “looking forward to socialising this summer” though 30 per cent say that they are “anxious” about the prospect. Younger voters are more enthusiastic about socialising, with 87 per cent of those aged 18-24 and 75 per cent of those aged 25-34 looking forward to doing so.

Only a small minority (14 per cent) of respondents said that they intended to holiday abroad this summer, with 78 per cent saying they did not plan to.