Social visits between households double since end of January despite Level 5 restrictions

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The finding was contained a new opinion poll by the ESRI.

NEW POLLING DATA from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found that social visits between households doubled in six weeks to the start of March.

A fortnightly survey carried out by the ESRI revealed that more than one in ten people (11.5%) had received a visitor to their home or visited another home for social reasons in the 24 hours before the poll was conducted.

The figure was more than twice the proportion of people (5%) who said they did so in the first such poll, which was carried out during the week beginning 25 January.

Almost quarter of the population (23.8%) had a visitor to their home or visited another home the 24 hours before the latest study was carried out when professional, care or childcare related visits were included.

The representative poll was carried out anonymously among 1,000 adults in the week beginning 8 March.

The ESRI has been surveying the population as part of the Social Activity Measure (SAM), a behavioural study that records the public’s response to the risk of Covid-19 infection over time.

Under Level 5 restrictions, people from different households are not allowed to meet at home except for essential family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people.

In a report accompanying the latest poll, the ESRI explained that the majority of social interactions between households in the home involved behaviours that risked the spread of Covid-19.

“Most visits involved time indoors, with the visitor not wearing a mask, and visits frequently lasting more than one hour,” the institute said.

“The minority who engaged in these social visits is spread across socio-demographic groups.”

The polling also found that the number of close contacts among the general population is on the rise, echoing recent figures released by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Previous polling by the ESRI recorded that people left their homes more, but until now, this did not translate into people meeting up with more people from other households.

However, the new survey shows that all respondents met an average of 2.23 people from other households in the 48 hours before the poll was conducted, up from 1.89 people when the last poll was carried out two weeks ago.

When those in ‘support bubbles’ were not accounted for, the average number of close contacts in the previous 48 hours was 1.67 people, up from 1.38 two weeks ago.

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“These changes in figures may not appear large, but they translate into hundreds of thousands of additional contacts and this change in behaviour coincides with the stalling of the downward trend in case numbers,” the ESRI said.

Speaking about the data last night, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said NPHET knew that the vast majority of people were doing what they can to obey restrictions, and accepted that the public was being asked a lot to continue doing so.

However, he warned that people needed to remain vigilant to avoid getting Covid-19 and risking the further spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the survey further revealed that a majority of people (55.9%) expect restrictions to be eased when a review of current guidelines kicks in on 5 April.

Almost two in five (38.3%) expect no change at all, while a small number of people expect restrictions to be tightened a little (3.7%) or tightened a lot (2.1%).

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