The Irish Times view on the reopening: a desire for a cautious restart

Poll shows age is a key determinant of one’s views on resuming social and economic activity

Asked if the government should proceed with a full reopening of business and society as quickly as possible or proceed more slowly than it is doing, opinion is almost equally divided. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Asked if the government should proceed with a full reopening of business and society as quickly as possible or proceed more slowly than it is doing, opinion is almost equally divided. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A large majority of people are happy with the way the Government is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll, but a substantial minority would like to see it slowing the pace at which society and business is being reopened.

The scale and speed of the vaccine rollout has clearly had a positive impact, with 70 per cent of people believing the Government is doing a good job on Covid-19 and just 26 per cent saying it is not. That contrasts with 51 per cent who felt the Government was not doing a good job in the last poll in February.

However, asked if the Government should proceed with a full reopening of business and society as quickly as possible or proceed more slowly than it is doing, opinion is almost equally divided. While 50 per cent want to see the reopening proceed quickly, 46 per cent favour a slowdown.

There is a wide variation in the views of different age groups. Those under 35 favour a rapid reopening by a margin of almost two to one. By contrast those over 65 favour a slowdown by a similar margin. Given that almost all the over-65s have had a least one dose of the vaccine by now the poll indicates a level of fear among the older age groups that will take some time to dissipate.

The level of fear is illustrated by the response to another question which asked whether life should return to normal when most people are vaccinated or some precautions such as mask-wearing remain in place. A decisive majority of 65 per cent to 32 per cent felt that some precautions should remain in place after vaccination.

Again there is a significant difference in response by age, with the youngest 18 to 24 cohort evenly split on the issue while among the over-65s there is a massive 79 per cent in favour of keeping some precautions in place indefinitely.

A similar trend is evident across the age spectrum when it comes to socialising in the summer ahead. Among the youngest age group 87 per cent are looking forward to socialising but among the over 65s the feeling is more mixed, with 51 per cent looking forward to it but 43 per cent saying they are anxious about socialising. On the question of holidays, a clear majority across all age groups does not intend to travel but again the youngest are the most likely to go while the over 65s are least likely.

The clear conclusion is that Covid-19 has been experienced in different ways, and had different impacts, depending on one’s age. This is only natural, given the fact that almost all the fatalities have been among older people, but it does give the Government room for manouevre should it wish to pause or slow the reopening of society amid fears that the more transmissible Delta variant could take hold on the island.

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