Coronavirus: Many Kiwis plan to keep social distancing into the future - survey

You wouldn't believe it looking at photos taken outside fast-food restaurants this week, but a new survey has found more than half of Kiwis plan to keep on social distancing even as the pandemic winds down.

Health experts say keeping your distance - preferably about two metres - from others is a key way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since emerging from China in January. 

Its main form of transmission is respiratory droplets from sneezes and coughs, but can also be transmitted by people without symptoms, so keeping a safe distance could be the difference between catching the disease or passing it on to someone else. 

Daniel Shaw, managing director of insights and research company Perceptive, says many Kiwis plan to keep up some of the new routines and behaviours they've picked up over the last few weeks of lockdown.

"The majority of us are expecting COVID-19 to impact us on some level for six to 12 months... potentially as we even move out of the alert levels," he told The AM Show on Friday. 

"Two-thirds of us are still potentially saying we're less likely to attend social gatherings, even half saying we may be less likely to catch up with friends and family. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts." 

Perceptive has been running a tracker on its site to gauge the public's sentiments during the pandemic. The latest figures show Kiwis, for the most part, are remaining positive about the impact the lockdown has had.

But concern for the state of the economy is forefront, with 88 percent of us worried about our jobs and incomes. And one-in-five parents are concerned about the impact the lockdown will have on their kids' education.

Concern levels are dropping.
Concern levels are dropping. Photo credit: Perceptive

On a positive note, the survey found more than half of us (58 percent) have adopted new technology and will continue to do so in the future. About the same number say they'll continue to cook more meals at home, rather than eat out, and 42 percent say they'll cut down on the amount of cleaning they pay to get done, and just do it themselves. 

Shaw said another interesting finding is that far more Kiwis are worried about others' health than their own.

"Seventy-one percent are still concerned about our fellow New Zealanders. That's potentially a look at how we've come together through this - only about 40 percent of us are concerned about our own health and wellbeing." 

As for brands, the Warehouse's early decision to keep its doors open as a provider of 'essential' goods clearly backfired, with it being one of the only major organisations to register 'negative sentiment' amongst those surveyed. But realising their mistake has paid off.

"The Warehouse, who was viewed negatively at the start of lockdown, have generated positive sentiment by closing their stores, organising essential items to order, having contact-less delivery options, and tailoring their advertising to the situation," Perceptive said on its site. 

Another falling foul of public sentiment is UberEats, which has refused to lower its 30-35 percent commission rate, despite restaurants - which often operate on razor-thin margins - coming to increasingly rely on delivery services. 

How brands are doing in the public's view.
How brands are doing in the public's view. Photo credit: Perceptive

Air New Zealand, despite laying off staff, is amongst those receiving positive sentiment from the public, along with supermarkets, banks and telcos. 

As for the Government, 75 percent of us think they're doing "as much as they can" to suppress the impact of the pandemic, which has killed 19 Kiwis to date. Only 5 percent think politicians aren't doing enough. 

This is perhaps reflected in responses to the question, 'How concerned are you about the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation?', which has fallen from 53 percent 'high concern' at the end of March, when the lockdown was in its first week, to 35 percent now. 

New Zealand is expected to be at level 3 for two weeks at least.