Wellington, July 10, 2021
Low-income New Zealanders experienced hunger and isolation during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown but were resourceful and backed the approach to the pandemic, a study has found.
The University of Otago study ‘Life During Lockdown’ explored the experience of low-income New Zealanders and their advice to the government about addressing future pandemics.
Interviews with 27 low-income people were carried out in June and July 2020, immediately after the lockdown was lifted, for the study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
Scared and isolated
They told researchers that they felt scared and felt isolated, but they were also resourceful and on board with the need for a lockdown. They coped with lockdown by using technology, self-help techniques and support from others.
Otago University Public Health Department Senior Author Dr Amanda Kvalsvig said that a lot of people experienced hunger.
“In fact almost all of these participants were battling just to eat every day. Benefits and payments introduced by the government helped but did not fully meet their needs and support from charitable organisations was critical. This particular group of people was experiencing very severe hardship so those benefits and payments weren’t quite enough to close the gap and to deliver the essential needs,” she said.
Dr Kvalsvig said that there was a need to build that protection and weave that social security net into the alert level system at every level, so that whatever the situation people are safe and they are able to do what they are being asked to do.”
Lockdown isolated people who were very disconnected from society even before the pandemic, she said.
“For them that was particularly hard. They were separated from all sorts of support that they might normally be able to access. Despite hardship and isolation, the interviewees were overwhelmingly positive about the government’s response and advised the government to take the same approach in the future,” she said.
They were strongly supportive of the government and had high praise for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
“That is a testament to the really clear communication, really outstanding communication, from the government during that very anxious time. They were onboard with lockdown, they knew what they needed to do and they agreed with what they were being asked to do. The research findings would be given to the government,” Dr Kvalsvig said.
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