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New Zealanders Say Keep COVID-19 Elimination Policy, Don’t Follow Sweden

New Zealanders overwhelmingly want to stay with the current policy to try eliminating community transmission of COVID-19.

They do not want less restrictive policies.

A new nationwide Horizon Research finds:

  • 76% want to continue imposing varying levels of restrictions to manage and eliminate outbreaks of infections in the community, and borrow and spend to reduce economic impacts and help with economic recovery
  • 23% want its policy to take a less restrictive approach, like Sweden, and allow COVID-19 transmission within the community to reduce economic costs and harm to the economy.

Horizon says the result is overwhelmingly for not changing course.

The survey was conducted between August 20 and 25 2020 in the public interest after some media commentators and businesspeople argued the country should follow Sweden’s approach. There were 1,300 respondents aged 18+, representing the adult population at the 2018 census. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error is +/- 2.7%.

Respondents were given information about the approaches taken in Sweden and New Zealand, comparing levels of restrictions on people, economic impacts and forecasts, infection and death rates, and the cost of the elimination policy in New Zealand projected in the 2020 Budget.

Overall, better for the economy long term:

The survey also asked overall, which approach people believed would be better for the New Zealand economy long term, and found:

  • 16% thought allowing COVID-19 to transmit within New Zealand was best
  • 73% thought eliminating COVID-19 transmission within New Zealand was best, while
  • 12% were really not sure.

There was majority support across all age and gender groups for the current policy of imposing restrictions and borrowing and spending to reduce the economic impacts. A majority of those currently employed in all industry sectors support the current policy.

Every occupation group, including business proprietors and the self-employed, showed majority support for eliminating COVID-19 transmission in the community. A majority of those currently employed in all industry sectors support the elimination of COVID-19 community transmission.

This includes 55% employed in tourism, 83% in the accommodation sector (including hotels and motels), 87% in cafes and restaurants and 76% in retail.

Among those who voted in 2017 for parties currently in Parliament there was majority support for staying with current policy, except among ACT voters:

Party voted for in 2017Allow COVID-19 to transmitRetain elimination policyNot sure
NZ First14%70%17%

The survey was conducted during an Alert Level 3 lockdown in Auckland and Level 2 restrictions imposed in the rest of the country.


1,300 members of Horizon Research nationwide panels and a third-party research panel, representing the New Zealand adult population at the 2018 census, responded to the online survey between 20 and 25 August 2020. The sample is weighted on age, gender, highest qualification, personal income, employment status and party vote at the 2017 election. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error is ± 2.7%.


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