This poll, it should be stressed, is from the UK, and not Ireland. But do we really think public opinion here would be drastically different?
62% of Britons – and all ages ranges – say they would support the introduction of a curfew between 10pm and 5am as a measure to prevent a second coronavirus wave https://t.co/2xPJiIwo5i pic.twitter.com/RgXCWwkfff
— YouGov (@YouGov) September 9, 2020
In many ways, a curfew has a certain logic to it, as much as many people (including this one) might instinctively hate the idea. Since most economic activity is conducted by daytime, and most revelry is conducted at nighttime, you probably have a limited impact on the economy. You’re also giving Gardai the power to put an end to those house parties that are allegedly the source of so much of the recent covid surge. If you want a measure to crack down on drunken smooching spreading the virus, then curfew might make sense.
What’s extraordinary here isn’t that the curfew is being considered – it’s that in the UK, at least, there’s so much support for it.
Throughout the western world, one of the key findings of opinion polls has been ongoing support, at levels much higher than one might instinctively suspect, for lockdown.
Even in the United States, of all places. Look at this from last week:
American adults still view the pandemic as predominantly a health crisis, and the majority are worried that businesses are opening too soon.
But there’s been an increase since July in the share of Americans who see the pandemic as primarily an economic crisis and in the share who worry that businesses are taking too long to reopen.
Fifty-four percent of adults say it’s a bigger concern that businesses are reopening too quickly, compared to 42 percent who are more worried about their opening too slowly. But back in early July, 63 percent saw businesses’ reopening too quickly as the bigger concern, compared to 33 percent who were more worried about slower reopenings.
Yes, the number is coming down, but a solid majority of Americans still say that the country is re-opening too quickly, rather than too slowly. The British, meanwhile, want a curfew.
There’s been very little polling, or none at all, of this kind here in Ireland, but it seems a stretch to believe that Irish popular opinion on these matters is dramatically different to the two countries we’re culturally closest to.
When Gript’s Ben Scallan went out on the street this week to ask people about a second lockdown, he didn’t detect universal opposition, by any means. Hard to watch this random selection of voices, isn’t it, and think that there’s a big difference between the UK, the US, and Ireland:
Anyway, what are the chances of a curfew here in Ireland? Growing, you’d think, is the answer. Government is clearly worried about the spike in cases, and the accompanying smaller spike in hospitalisations. It’s patently obvious that they’re considering new measures, but don’t want a full lockdown. Curfew might well be on the table, here, shortly.
And it’s not a new idea, by the way. Here are our old friends the Israelis, implementing one just this week:
A curfew approved Tuesday evening by the cabinet went into effect at 7 p.m. in 40 towns and neighborhoods throughout the country, in the latest measure meant to help contain a coronavirus infection rate spiraling out of control in dozens of communities. (The list of areas under curfew is at the bottom of this article.)
The curfew, lasting from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, targets nightlife activities, whether bars or traditional slichot prayer gatherings held in the evenings in Haredi towns ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which falls on September 18 this year.
Most of the municipalities affected are among the poorest in Israel, with Arab and Haredi towns making up much of the list. Some one million three hundred thousand Israelis were covered by the curfew, according to a Channel 12 tally.
And in Australia:
The Victorian premier adamantly defended his government’s decision to impose a night curfew as part of the state’s stage-four lockdown, at a testy press conference on Thursday.
Daniel Andrews was grilled by reporters on the justifications for the Melbourne curfew after both Victoria’s police chief and its chief health officer claimed neither were responsible for the policy.
Andrews appeared to shoulder responsibility for the decision to impose a curfew, saying “that’s a decision that I’ve made”, adding that in matters of health and enforcement, the government was “free to go beyond” the advice it receives.
Controversy has mounted over the curfew as the government has to date failed to provide data to show it significantly reduces disease spread, or that enough public health law breaches were occurring between the curfew hours of 8pm to 5am to justify it.
One thing you can be absolutely sure of: Somewhere in Dublin, a member of NPHET is reading about these curfews, looking at the polling from the UK, and thinking “hmmmmm”.
Don’t be surprised to see one proposed here, very shortly.