Essential poll: majority of Australians expect second wave of Covid-19 infections

A majority of Australians surveyed in the latest Guardian Essential poll believe it is likely there will be a second wave of Covid-19 infections as a consequence of restrictions being eased, with only 13% of the sample dismissing that probability.

With the rates of infection increasing around the world, and with Victoria now battling a new outbreak of infections and an uptick in community transmission, 63% of the sample of 1,079 respondents believe a second wave in Australia is either very or quite likely. Women were more likely than men to fear that prospect, and voters over the age of 34 were more likely to hold that view than younger voters.

Public health measures are now beginning to ease in most states, but Australians remain unconvinced that life will return to normal any time soon. More than 60% of the sample believe that international travel will take between one and two years, or possibly more than two years, to return without restrictions.

Expectations about unemployment are similarly low, with 70% of the sample believing it will take between one and two years or longer for the joblessness rate to return to where it was before the pandemic hit, and more than 60% believing the negative impact on the housing market will be prolonged.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported last week that Australia lost a further 227,000 jobs between April and May, resulting in a total loss of 835,000 jobs in seasonally adjusted terms since March, and a 0.7% jump in unemployment to 7.1%.

A spike in Covid-19 cases has prompted Daniel Andrews to extend the state of emergency in Victoria for at least four more weeks and intensify enforcement of the social distancing rules. After recording another 19 cases on Sunday, taking to 116 the number of new cases in the state over the past week, Victoria recorded 16 new cases of coronavirus on Monday.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, was asked by reporters on Monday whether or not the current Victorian outbreak constituted a second wave of infections given the number of active cases in the state was the highest in two months. He said there was “no official definition”.

“It’s a concept where the outbreak is such that you don’t think the public health measures can easily control it in the short term,” Murphy said. He said “at the moment, I have great confidence in the Victorian response”.

Scott Morrison says governments were prepared for an increase in infections during the easing, and Australia has the public health infrastructure in place to manage outbreaks.

The prime minister said it was understandable that the Andrews government would pause the easing of restrictions to help manage localised outbreaks, but he said governments needed to push on with opening the economy back up.

More than 60% of voters surveyed this week believe a vaccine will be developed to combat the virus over the next few years, and 58% say they think the population will build up resistance to the illness by being exposed to it over the same time frame.

Australians are divided about whether they feel positive or negative about the outlook over the next 12 months, with 45% of the sample saying they are very or somewhat positive and 33% of the group feeling very or somewhat negative. Some of the sample (20%) report feeling more connected to their community than before the pandemic, with 18% feeling less connected and 62% saying it has made no difference.

Voters were asked about whether their attitudes to climate change had shifted over the past 12 months, which includes the period of catastrophic summer bushfires, with just under half the sample (46%) saying they were no more or less concerned than previously and a similar group (42%) reporting they were more concerned.

But community concern has come off a peak recorded last November. In November 2019, 60% of the sample thought Australia was not doing enough, and that’s come down to 52%. Similarly, only 22% of the sample thought Australia was doing enough last November and that’s crept up to 25%.

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 3%.

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