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Younger people more likely than other groups to meet people face-to-face during Covid-19 restrictions

Half of people who reported flu-like symptoms within the last 14 days believed they had symptoms of the coronavirus.

The 'Perpetual Motion' sculpture on the N7 covered in a government warning
The 'Perpetual Motion' sculpture on the N7 covered in a government warning
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

YOUNGER PEOPLE HAVE reported speaking to more people face-to-face than older people during current Covid-19 restrictions, according to a new survey.  

The survey of over 100,000 people also reveals that just over half of those who reported flu-like symptoms in the 14 days before they responded to the questions believed they had symptoms of the coronavirus.

The population-wide survey was carried out by researchers at Dublin City University, NUI Galway and the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics to study the impact of the pandemic and government-imposed restrictions on daily life in Ireland.

It was carried out anonymously over a 24-hour period on Wednesday last week.

76% of respondents were women. The median age was 47, and most answers came from Dublin (38%), Galway (12%), and Cork (6%), with all other counties at less than 5% each.

Respondents reported that they found the restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of the virus very clear.

92% indicated an understanding of the measures around social distancing, while 79% of those surveyed were found to be clear on the guidelines around shopping.

However, while 75% of respondents felt they had adapted their behaviour in public, only 37% of respondents felt that others around them in public had changed their behaviour.

In general, younger respondents talked on average to slightly more people face-to-face than older respondents.

It was found that those under 30 met on average over four other people; over 50s on average met over three people, while those in between 30 and 50 also met with on average over three people.

The survey was carried out last Wednesday 8 April and open to anyone who wished to provide answers. 

In the section about the average number of people met by a participant outside of the household, people were asked about their behaviour in the previous 24 hours. 

Authors of the study said they understood that the answers given included scenarios like speaking to a neighbour across the road or encountering a friend or neighbour by chance while out for a walk – alongside other scenarios. 

Meanwhile, 6,000 respondents (around 6% of the total) indicated that they had flu-like symptoms in the 14 days prior to completing the survey.

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Of this group, just over half (52%) thought they had symptoms of coronavirus and 53% contacted their GP. Of those who contacted their GP, 36% were referred for testing.

In different sections of the survey, people were asked about different types of behaviour over a range of different timescales. 

The first Covid-19 restrictions, including the closure of schools, were announced on Thursday 12 March, with more stringent restrictions announced at the end of March. 

Professor Anthony Staines, Professor of Health Systems at DCU and who was the joint-lead on the research, said the study showed how the nation was dealing with the coronavirus.

“This is a baseline study on how we are coping with the restrictive measure put in place by the government to try and flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic in Ireland,” he said.

“As these restrictions have now been extended to 5 May, we plan to repeat the study every two weeks to continually check the pulse of the nation and our ability to deal with the current situation.”

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