Our Covid-19 outlook is still one of the most positive in the world. But with new cases emerging in recent weeks, our optimism levels have taken a hit.
Jacinda Ardern yesterday delivered a speech announcing the “next steps” for New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, and what will happen in the event of a community case being detected. But as the country braces for a sustained period of isolation from the rest of the world, our levels of optimism about “overcoming” the Covid-19 have begun to ebb, according to the latest survey from research company Global Web Index.
New Zealand’s optimism levels had been trending upwards, peaking at a high of 83% in May. That number has fallen to 73% in GWI’s latest survey, conducted between June 29 and July 2. It remains high in a global context, but is the lowest for New Zealand since the level four lockdown began in late March.
The decline in optimism likely comes as new cases emerge at the border after 24 days of New Zealand being declared Covid-free. On June 16, two arrivals from the UK tested positive after having been allowed to leave managed isolation under compassionate exemption and without being tested. Other stories raised questions about the permeability of the isolation and quarantine system, with minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb being entlisted to lead the oversight of the system.
New Zealand remains, however, extremely optimistic about its coronavirus situation compared to the rest of the world. Among the 18 countries included in the survey, New Zealand was ranked second most optimistic, with India close behind in third with 71%. Only China, where the virus originated, felt more optimistic. Some 90% of Chinese were confident the country would overcome the virus.
When it came to how we felt about the pandemic globally, just 22% of New Zealanders felt optimistic – down from 31% in May – presumably reflecting the worsening health crisis in countries like the US and Brazil. Across the Tasman, a fresh wave of infections swept through the state of Victoria in late June led to a second lockdown last week.
Like New Zealand, the US and Australia also saw a decline in optimism with both countries experiencing a 9% drop.
We also increasingly see the Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand as a long-term prospect. Among those surveyed, 69% said they thought the outbreak would last for six months or more, increasing significantly from just 52% in May.
This 17-point spike was the largest among all countries surveyed (China’s was the second-largest at 14%) indicating that expectations have sobered even in countries which have had the most “success” in battling Covid-19. Part of this comes down to repeated messaging from the government that we should expect to see more cases at the border given citizens and permanent residents are still able to return, particularly since the end of New Zealand’s Covid-free streak.
The number worried about the Covid-19 situation in New Zealand, however, has continued its steady decline with just 48% extremely, very, or quite concerned compared to 83% in late March, 63% in late April, and 49% in May. Meanwhile, levels of concern in Australia and China have seen a 4-5% increase since May, driven in part by the reintroduction of restrictions in areas such as Beijing, Victoria and New South Wales.