Lessons from NZ’s bubbles for the world

02 Jun, 2020
Sharyn Graham Davies smiling at the camera.
Associate Professor Sharyn Graham Davies.

Initial findings into how New Zealanders did under lockdown can now help inform policy makers around the globe fighting COVID-19.

Research led in NZ by the Auckland University of Technology found that other countries may find our “bubbles” effective in encouraging compliance with social distancing during lockdowns, while meeting people's needs for care and support.

“New Zealand has been rightly lauded for its success in combatting a virus that has wrought so much devastation in other countries around the world,” Associate Professor Sharyn Graham Davies says.

"The bubble was a government policy of which many New Zealanders feel very proud, and from which they feel other countries could learn.”

The research Living in Bubbles during the Coronavirus Pandemic: Insights from New Zealand gives recommendations to overseas policy makers.

“New Zealand didn’t have much time, but other governments could give more specific guidelines on ground rules for bubbles,” she says.

“Having pioneered the idea, it is not surprising that New Zealand needed to make adjustments to their policy as it went along. Other governments should seek to do better.

“Policy needs to take into account all types of potential social and care arrangements that people have.

“There also needs to be a little flexibility for those who have to leave their bubble, those whose bubble breaks down, or those who need to meet multiple care obligations over many months of social distancing.”

Associate Professor Sharyn Graham Davies says uptake of New Zealand’s buddying system was low during lockdown due to criteria that was too stringent - but it was a system greatly valued by those who used it.

Overall, bubble compliance was high in New Zealand, helped by clear messaging and the Government’s kindness rhetoric, she says.

The research was developed by the London School of Economics and Political Science, which is conducting similar research in the United Kingdom.

The New Zealand arm of the study is led by the Auckland University of Technology with support from The University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, and The University of Waikato.

Other AUT researchers involved include: Dr Antje Deckert, Professor Eleanor Holroyd and Dr Laumua Tunufa’i.

The research is focused particularly on our use of the bubble metaphor and how it enabled flexibility to extend care to those who needed it.

The New Zealand survey is continuing, with the public encouraged to share their experience under Level 2.

If you are interested in taking part please click here.

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