Australians strongly support putting Victoria into quarantine as pessimism grows about a second wave of coronavirus infections.
In a survey of more than 1,200 Australians taken between Monday 6 and Wednesday 8 July, concern about coronavirus continues to rise sharply on most indicators and is again set to eclipse the economy as the most important issue to Australians.
These concerns largely stem from the strong rise in outbreaks in Victoria, where there are 932 active cases and 40 people in hospital, which are largely coming from community transmission, rather than overseas arrivals.
Notably, 77% (up 5% in a week) of Australians are now concerned about the potential for a “second wave” of the virus. 17% indicated they have worn a face mask, up from 12% three weeks ago.
In response, 85% of Australians support the closing of Victorian borders – including 74% of the state’s residents – on the basis that it is the right thing to do to stem the new outbreaks.
Support for closing the Victorian border was strongest in Queensland (94%). Notably, the Queensland Government has now announced a total ban of Victorians from Queensland due to the growing outbreak in Victoria.
Victorians are also the most worried, 57% are “extremely concerned” about the virus, compared to an average of 48% in other states. 50% of Victorians (compared to 38% in other states) also believe that restrictions are being lifted too quickly, and they are also less likely to shake your hand (66% compared to the national average of 54%).
While worse in Victoria, there is broad rising concerns that restrictions are being lifted too quickly (41% up 12% in the last three weeks) and increased numbers believe others in the community are not taking social distancing seriously enough (76% up from 71% last week).
These health concerns are feeding into rising pessimism about the economy, with 66% saying the economy will get worse in a month, 56% saying it will get worse in three months and 35% saying it will be worse in a year.
With near-term economic confidence fading, there are concerns about any early end to the key support programs for people who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. There is strong support for JobKeeper to be extended and to lock in long-term increases to JobSeeker payments.
Around half (49%) want JobKeeper to be extended beyond its scheduled end in September with only 29% thinking it should end on the timetable originally planned.
Around two thirds (67%) also believe there should be a permanent increase in JobSeeker once the coronavirus supplement is no longer being paid, with those supporting an increase most likely to believe that a rise of $100 a fortnight is most appropriate.
These numbers suggest that the Victorian situation will have impacts across national economic and social policy and that Australians will support action to keep Victoria in isolation, retain state border closures and maintain a strong safety net for those affected by the job impacts of these shutdowns.
Two-thirds (68%) believe that Australians currently living abroad should be allowed to return to Australia, however, 32% believe they should not return until the coronavirus crisis has passed, which could possibly strand them indefinitely. They also take a hard line on who should pick up the costs, with 55% of Australians believing that individuals should take up the quarantine costs.
While Australians love sport, they’re not quite ready to cram back in the stadiums, with only 8% suggesting that people should be allowed to attend large sporting events as spectators now, even if appropriate measures are in place to maintain hygiene and social distancing. However, 29% in total think it could be allowed in a month and 50% in total within three months. The results for music concerts are fairly similar. Australians also want people to cool their jets on protesting, with only 7% support for attending protest rallies now.
Outside of Victoria, life is returning to normal, with 31% (down from a peak of 55%) saying they have spent less than usual in the last week and 18% (down from a peak of close to 30%) saying they had experienced a loss of income. On social impacts, 38% (down from a peak of 77%) of Australians have stayed home more than usual and 41% (also down from 77% peak) are now avoiding non-essential contact.
People are also starting to return to work. 49% (down from 57%) of Australian workers are working from home at least one day a week and the average numbers of days working from home has also decreased (1.9 down from 2.4). By comparison, in previous weeks we have found that pre-COVID- around 24% of workers worked from home at least one day a week.
Ratings of performance in responding to coronavirus and its associated impacts remained largely steady for government (61% ‘excellent’ or ‘good’), the health system (75%), supermarkets (71%), and employers (60%), while the performance of the police lifted (70% up from 65%). Notably, electricity and gas companies fell sharply (37%) possibly due to pressure on residential energy bills where usage has jumped due to more people working from home.
After 17 weeks, Australians still support restrictions and want government to encourage safety precautions, want more testing, and want rules on social distancing kept in place where they are appropriate to protect the community.