Vast majority want to see removal of the 2km restrictions

Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway
Apr 27 2020 Posted: 08:09 IST

New findings from a survey of over 35,000 people have found that most people would like to see the 2km restriction on movement and the limitations on small gatherings removed.  


The findings are from phase two of the Corona Citizens’ Science Study*, a population-wide survey conducted by research teams at NUI Galway, Dublin City University and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics (NUI Galway) looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictive measures (lock down, social distancing) on daily life in Ireland.

Respondents were asked to rank, in order of preference, which of the social restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus, they would like to see removed.

The 2km limit on movement ranked highest (50% of respondents had this as their first preference); followed by the removal of the limitations on small group gatherings (37%).Respondents ranked a return to work and school, in third and fourth respectively with the reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants as the fifth preference.

10,830 people, representing 32% of the survey reported postponing medical treatment or check-ups. Of that group,  55% said this was because the healthcare professional was not seeing any patients at the moment; 39% didn’t want to create extra pressure in the health system and 26% were concerned about the risk of contracting Covid-19.

The postponed treatment included GP consultations (48%), hospital medical examinations (14%)  and operations (6%). Some parents reported postponed childhood vaccinations and pre and postnatal check ups, while fertility treatments have also been stopped.

Dr Akke Vellinga, Epidemiologist/Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway, joint research lead said, “As time has moved on, and the restrictions have remained in place, the effects of social distancing have an impact on the number of people who report flu-like symptoms for themselves and for people around them. However, many parents are struggling to keep their children motivated to do schoolwork.

“The postponement of GP appointments in particular is worrisome, and people should not put off calling their GP when they are worried about something.”

Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems, DCU and joint research lead said, “These results show some of the real impacts of Covid-19 on our health and on our health services. Important treatment is being delayed, and there will need to be a clear path to fixing this before queues in our healthcare system become intolerable.
We also see people beginning to think about life after lock-down, and making realistic suggestions for gradual easing of the restrictions. Irish people have made huge sacrifices to bring this disease under some control, which we needed to do before we could move on.”

The public’s increased interest in DIY activities was reflected with 42% saying they were engaged in some type of DIY work; 60% were busy gardening.

Walking remained the most popular activity with 90% taking part in this. 

Indoor exercise was carried out by 56% of people and the popularity of board games stood at 35%.

Medical Appointments

32% (10,830) people have postponed medical treatment or check-ups. In the main, this was because the healthcare professional is not seeing any patients at the moment (55%); 39% say they don’t want to create an extra burden and 26% are worried about the risk of catching Covid-19.
41% had preventative routine examinations postponed; 48% a consultation with the GP; 14% had a hospital medical examination postponed and 6% an operation. A fifth of these respondents gave more detail about delayed/cancelled treatments, ranging from childhood vaccination, pre and postnatal check ups, dental appointments, blood tests, orthopaedic procedures. Fertility treatments have also been stopped.

Employment/Working from home

Most people were employed representing 69% of the survey; students made up 4%; retired people accounted for 13% and homemakers made up 7% of the overall respondents.
Of the people who were in employment (23,000) 8% always worked from home; 20% sometimes and 38% never.
Of the group who said they never work from home, 18% were not allowed; 20% said their job wasn’t suited to home working; 40% said their role required face to face contact.
Of those in employment, in the past week, 45% worked from home and 15% indicated that they were an essential worker (about 5,000 respondents).

Understanding of restrictions

92% indicated an 8 or higher for social distancing; 83% for isolation recommendations; 81% for leisure and travel and 79% on shopping. The figures are similar to the findings in survey part one.
Adaptation of their own behaviour at home was a little lower at 77% compared to 85% in the previous survey.
In public places, 79% of people adapted their own behaviour, but of that group, only 38% felt that others did the same.

Removal of restrictions

Five different social restrictions were surveyed with respondents asked to rank in order of preference which of the social restrictions they would like to see removed. This was done in order of one to five (one being the most popular).
50% placed removing the 2km restriction as number one; 37% were in favour of lifting the ban on small group gatherings leaving this in second place; 33% were in favour of returning to work representing the third most popular choice; 32% opted for the reopening of schools. The opening of shops, pubs and restaurants was ranked in fifth place by 48%.


Childcare arrangements remained similar to the previous findings.
Of preschool aged children (about 5,000), 89% were cared for at home. However, when looking at differences between non-essential and essential workers, over 92% were taken care of at home compared to 73% of the essential workers.
Essential workers have to rely more often on childminders (10%); family (11%) and grandparents (4%), compared to non-essential workers (respectively 4%, 2% and 2%).


6,000 parents with children in primary school. Parents cited the following obstacles; children’s motivation (54%); work commitments (40%); other children in the house (24%) and clarity around what was expected (18%).
7,000 parents have secondary school children. They cited obstacles of motivation (55%), clarity around expectations (20%); working commitments (24%).
No major obstacles reported by 28% of respondents who had school aged children.
Overall, 17% of the parents of school children (of any age) identified resources as an obstacle.


3% of respondents indicated flu-like symptoms in the past 2 weeks (1,200), down from 6% in the previous survey. The same symptoms are common; tired/exhaustion (66%); sore throat (52%); dry/throaty cough (38%); runny nose (37%) and/or muscle pain (38%).
11% indicated flu-like symptoms- down from 17% in the previous survey.
Of the people with flu-like symptoms, 48% thought it was coronavirus, but only 42% contacted their GP (previously it was 53%).
Of these patients, 27% were referred for testing (down from 36%). These tests were positive for 25%; negative for 42%, waiting for results (17%) and waiting for the tests ( 5%).
Previously only 10% was positive and most people were still waiting for results (36%) or the test (37%).


The participation rate was 71% female and 29% male. The mean age was 46, median was 45. Age groups were well represented with about 50% of the people aged between 35 and 54; 5% were under the age of 25 and 11% were 65 or older. Of the total respondents, 37% had taken part in the first survey.
Dublin had the highest number of respondents with 41% (previous  survey was 38%) and Galway 14% (previous survey 12%), Cork 7% (previous survey  6%) and all other counties were represented at less than 5%.
Of the respondents, 66% had a university degree; 12% had secondary education, or were in the middle of secondary education; 4% had a technical or vocational diploma and 17% a national cert or diploma.

*Corona Citizens’ Science Study


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