1 in 10 Australians are still shopping daily
Weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, nearly one in ten people are defying orders to stay home by grocery shopping every single day, startling new research has found.
The exclusive YouGov polling found that many Australians remain confused about what they can and cannot do.
Around 40 per cent of all 2085 survey respondents said they were only somewhat clear, or completely unclear, about what was allowed under current restrictions.
Many people were not heeding basic government requests to stay at home as much as possible.
In New South Wales, the state most badly affected by the outbreak, nearly half of all respondents (47 per cent) reported leaving home to buy groceries at least twice a week. Shockingly, ten per cent said they were doing so every single day.
In both Victoria and South Australia, 43 per cent of respondents admitted going grocery shopping at least twice a week, while in Queensland that proportion was just 38 per cent.
Queensland's rate of growth of new infections remains one of the slowest of any state or territory, with a week-on-week increase in new cases of 5.9 per cent - below the national increase of 6.8 per cent.
Epidemiologist Professor Raina MacIntyre from the University of NSW said it was imperative that people reduce the number of times they do grocery shopping each week.
"The more contact people have, the higher the risk of infection, and the longer we will be dealing with transmission in the community," she said.
"For everyone's sake, people should plan and organise their shopping trips to as few outings as possible - preferably once a week or less. Every little bit counts."
Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen told News Corp the survey results were not surprising.
"Australians have been getting mixed messages from the Federal Government since the start of this emergency including the launch of a public information campaign seven weeks after the first Australian COVID-19 case," he said.
"It took the Government two months to send Australians a text message on this unprecedented health emergency. The Prime Minister, to this day, continues to confuse Australians with conflicting advice on things like whether parents should be sending their children to school. The Government should be using every resource available to communicate clearly to Australian people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. It's that simple."
The YouGov data showed men were much more likely than women to leave their house every day to go shopping. Of the generations, Millennials were the biggest offenders.
But the data also showed some encouraging results.
Around half the respondents in NSW, Victoria and SA were heeding the message to limit their grocery buying to no more than once a week, while in Queensland the percentage of people complying was even higher, at 57 per cent.
Why the disparity in behaviours of people in different states? There are many factors, but it should be remembered that each state is hearing slightly different messages from their premiers - and some states' populations may be more receptive to them than others.
Research conducted by Bastion Insights reveals the different levels of satisfaction people have in their state governments at the moment. While 76 per cent of Victorians rated the response of the Andrews government as good or excellent, only 56 per cent of people in NSW said the same of the Berejiklian administration. (The approval ratings of the state governments in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia were 64, 63 and 83 per cent, respectively.)
Tony Mitchelmore, managing director of research firm Visibility, said that while there were inconsistencies in official communications about the virus several weeks ago, everybody had more recently "gotten on board".
"All the premiers now, the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, everyone is pretty much singing from the same hymn book," he said.
But there could often be a delay between a message being received - such as the need to stay home - and the message being acted upon, he warned.
"Sometimes people will get a message but they won't act on it until much later - in an election campaign, for example. There can be a lag," he said.
Overseas news reports and word of mouth from friends were probably informing people's decisions as much as official government messaging, he suggested.
"I suspect a lot of people are doing the maths on this in their head. They're following this closely," he said. "If there's a spike in infections, people will think 'Maybe I won't worry about making that extra trip down to the supermarket."
Maidie Wood from food safety certification and training firm SAI Global said it was extremely unlikely that COVID-19 spread through food at supermarkets, but people should shop at off-peak times and practice social distancing when there as a precaution.
"There's no real evidence, as of yet, that food is a likely source or route of COVID-19 transmission," she said.
"In saying that, COVID-19 does present some cross-contamination concerns. (It) might be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching food that has had the virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Even so, this is not known to be the primary way the virus spreads, and if it were on food, it would be destroyed by heat from cooking."
Originally published as 1 in 10 still shopping daily: report