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Northern Ireland poll backs lockdown but Boris Johnson's handling is rated poorly

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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

An overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland support the stringent measures ordered by the government to slow the spread of coronavirus, a poll suggests.

And one week since the lockdown was introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnston, most of those surveyed said they would support even stronger restrictions.

But the survey, from Lucid Talk, also shows that most felt the UK Government was too slow to react to the virus, with the methods of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar proving much more popular in Northern Ireland.

Overall, 91% voiced their support for the stay-at-home regime, which has seen schools and businesses close, social distancing implemented and, last weekend, extra powers given to police to prevent social gatherings.

There was a 93% approval rating from those with a unionist background and 87% from nationalists.

Nationalists had the biggest concerns over the UK Government's speed of reaction to the pandemic with 88% believing the moves to prevent the spread of the virus was too slow.

Less than half of unionists polled (43%) felt the government's policy came too late, with 47% believing the timing was right. Overall in Northern Ireland, only 23% said the announcement of social restrictions was made at the right time.

The poll also indicates that Alliance, Green and 'Other' voters overwhelmingly (79%) thought the government, including the NI Executive, reacted too slowly.

In terms of political leadership during the outbreak, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann won the most praise from those surveyed.

The Taoiseach's performance to date won the approval of over two thirds of surveyed in Northern Ireland, 67%.

His address to the nation on St Patrick's night was a pivotal factor in his broad appeal across all sections of the community.

Mr Swann's straightforward approach as Health Minister in the NI Executive has impressed 61% of the population - and he scored relatively highly with Nationalists/Republicans (49%) and Alliance/Green/Others (55%).

Opinion still remains divided on Northern Ireland's First and deputy First Ministers.

Michelle O'Neill was praised for her handling of the crisis by 49% overall, with First Minister Arlene Foster impressing 47%.

But when broken down into support from unionists and nationalists, 62% of unionists were standing behind Mrs Foster and 68% of nationalists behind Mrs O'Neill, who has consistently called for more urgent action over the closing of schools and businesses.

People are less impressed with Prime Minister Boris Johnston, whose support for his handling of the crisis so far lags behind at just 44% - though 67% of unionists backed his leadership, compared to just 22% of nationalists.

The biggest concern raised was over the perceived lack of testing for coronavirus which has been available across the country, particularly for health service workers.

There were further concerns over the lack of co-ordination and mixed messages coming from Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill and insufficient staffing and inadequate equipment for frontline workers, though almost all showed their support for the health service.

Most people (71%) are turning to national television (BBC and Sky News) to keep updated on the crisis, though 69% say they are using local news services (BBC NI, UTV and RTE) as their best source of information.

A worrying 43% are relying on social media, which has been criticised by health exports for spreading false information.

Among the top ideas those taking the survey suggested to ease the stay-at-home strain included making Sky Cinema and Netflix free for a month.

Belfast Telegraph