Adelaide cluster renews virus concerns, Australians grow more wary about borders

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After five weeks of declining concern about coronavirus, Australians have reacted perceptibly to the unfolding virus cluster in Adelaide in this week’s national tracker poll. Some 70% of Australians were ‘quite’ or ‘very’ concerned about the virus when prompted, up three points on last week (67%) , making it once again the second highest prompted concern after the economy on 77%. It is quite a reversal because the virus has trailed the cost of living, the quality of aged care, job opportunities/unemployment and bushfires as a top concern in recent weeks. Unsurprisingly, South Australians were the most worried (79%).

Our survey of 1,773 people, taken Monday 16 to Wednesday 18 November, also shows less optimism about halting the spread of the virus in the short, medium and long term. Only 25% now think it will improve in one month (down markedly from 34% last week).South Australians are the most pessimistic with 51% saying the virus will get worse in a month, down from 19% last week.

Quarantine system still trusted but not home isolation of incomers

Australians are also continuing to be cautious about opening up the country, with mixed responses to the idea of repatriating more overseas Australians and a cooling in support for open borders by Christmas. Some interesting responses to new questions this week:

  • Around two thirds (65%) are confident about Australia’s quarantine facilities and processes, especially in NSW (74%) and QLD (72%) but less so in VIC (47%).
  • Half (50%) support chartering dedicated flights to bring Australians still overseas home, if costs are covered by passengers (18% oppose this).
  • A narrower majority of 44% supported increasing the number of Australians who can return each week from 6,000 but one in four (25%) were opposed.
  • Support for allowing in-home quarantine for returnees was lower and deadlocked with 37% supportive and 37% opposed

Hesitation on borders and events

Support for opening up state borders within one month has declined 10 points nationally to 55% from 65% in the past week, while support for opening the border with New Zealand is also down 8 points to 50%. Falling support is most pronounced in WA (30% down from 52%), SA (48% down from 58%) and Qld (54% down from 60%). Also this week, less people want large sporting events with spectators (40% down from 48% last week) or music concerts (39% down from 46%) within a month. 

Economic impacts are down but optimism has dipped

Some signs of returning normalcy: fewer people reported reduced working hours (10%, down 5 points from last week) and more people said their household income was the same as it was before coronavirus (54%, up 9 points). Nonetheless, optimism about the economy dipped 6 points with only 35% believing the economy will improve in three months.

Most will use a vaccine but support has dropped since September

Three quarters (66%) say they will ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ use a vaccine that is free, safe and effective; this is down from 74% in early September although the proportion who say they won’t use it remains quite low at only 13%. The majority (59%) also think it should be mandatory for some activities, but this is also down from 66% in September.

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