Lockdown supported, but not indefinitely: survey

Downtown Auckland at the beginning of the Level 4 lockdown in August. Photo: RNZ
Downtown Auckland at the beginning of the Level 4 lockdown in August. Photo: RNZ
A new survey 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.

The results were overwhelming when Research New Zealand asked Kiwis about what we should be doing to manage Covid-19, with 70 percent saying they support lockdowns. For many people, however, that willingness only extends to when the vaccination target has been reached.

Research NZ surveyed 1000 people over the age of 18 from 17 to 20 September, asking them two questions - whether they thought the country should continue using lockdowns as an elimination tool, and if vaccination should be mandatory for certain groups.

Research NZ managing director Emanuel Kalafatelis discussed the report with Sunday Morning.

"We wanted to gauge whether the public thought New Zealand should continue aiming to eliminate Covid through lockdowns," he said.

"And then the second question was around measuring the level of agreement that vaccination should be mandatory for certain frontline groups, overseas visitors, patrons in restaurants and bars, and businesses if they requested it of their workers."

Of the 70 percent who support lockdowns, 47 percent of that support them only until the vaccination target has been reached. The support also varied by region, Kalafatelis said.

"If you compare Auckland to the rest of the country there's a lower level of support for a continuation of lockdown. In Auckland it's 66 percent, in comparison to Wellington where it's 79 percent for example."

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

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

"Whilst they say they don't want to continue with lockdowns, many of them want to have strict rules around mask wearing, testing and MIQ."

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

As to mandatory vaccinations, results varied widely depending on who was being talked about. When it comes to health and quarantine frontline workers, 85 percent said they should be required.

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

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

"Some people will obviously get upset with that particular result. One in five isn't a number to be scoffed at."

Asked if businesses should be able to require vaccination for employees, numbers supporting that dropped considerably to just 57 percent.

There was "significantly less support for that," Kalafatelis said. "Roughly one in every two said that businesses should be able to decide whether to make vaccination and testing a requirement for continued employment."

Only 50 percent agreed on whether restaurants and bars should only serve vaccinated patrons, with 32 against and 18 percent unsure.

"The result is polarised, I think would be a lot fairer to say, and we do have a lot of people disagreeing with that."

When asked if New Zealand should drop all restrictions - masks, quarantine and the lot - 7 percent of those polled agreed. While that's a small number, "it's not insignificant," Kalafatelis said.

"We might have a hardcore group of anti-vaxxers and they may be 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 won't expect the country to impose restrictions on what they can do and where they can go just because they're not vaccinated."

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

"I would just hope that New Zealanders are a little more reasonable and controlled in terms of their emotions and reactions."

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

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