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People ‘expect lifting of social distancing restrictions to be slow and gradual’

The findings are based on data collected the week before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the roadmap to opening society and businesses on May 1.

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People walk past a sign encouraging social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

People walk past a sign encouraging social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

People walk past a sign encouraging social distancing in Dublin’s Phoenix Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

People expect the lifting of social distancing restrictions to be slow and gradual, with most indoor social activities not possible until at least September, according to new research.

The restrictions survey found that most people also believe that the lifting of restrictions should prioritise necessities ahead of leisure activities.

The findings are based on data collected the week before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the roadmap to opening society and businesses on May 1.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Photocall Ireland)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Photocall Ireland)

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Photocall Ireland)

The study found no evidence that a substantial proportion of the public expected a more rapid lifting of restrictions.

The Government’s five phases of the roadmap are subject to review based on public health data and advice issued by the National Public Health and Emergency Team (NPHET), headed up by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

However, if it proves possible to meet the timetable outlined in the roadmap, this would amount to a substantially more rapid lifting of restrictions than the public expected before the roadmap was published.

The interactive study involved a representative sample of adults in Ireland.

They expected non-essential shops and workplaces to reopen gradually between June and August.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Most expected cafes and restaurants to reopen in July or August, but schools and indoor leisure venues to remain closed until at least September, including sports facilities and gyms, arts and cultural centres, and pubs and clubs.

A return to “normality” is not expected until at least 2021, the survey found.

The study also asked people to rank restrictions according to which they thought should be lifted first and which, if lifted, would be best for them personally.

While people want to see the restriction on social contact beyond the household lifted first, they also think that necessities like workplaces, services and transport should take priority over leisure activities.

The clearest example relates to pubs and restaurants, which rank high for personal benefit, but low for when people think the restriction should be lifted.

“This study reveals further evidence of Ireland’s ability to pull together at a time of crisis,” said Dr Cameron Belton of the ESRI’s behavioural research unit.

“In the face of this disease, the large majority of people have absorbed the need to proceed slowly and carefully.

“They are willing to make sacrifices now for a better outcome in the long-run.”

The first phase is expected to begin on Monday following advice issued by NPHET to the Cabinet.

PA