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Old habits to be tested as New Zealand prepares for Alert Level 3

Old habits die very hard and new ones are hard to make but the results of newly-released opinion surveys shed light on why so many have been able to isolate and make New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown a success so far.

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New Zealanders will consider how new habits are bedded in as we contemplate an extra week in lockdown Source: 1 NEWS

Grant McInman of Horizon Research has surveyed attitudes to Covid-19 and the lockdown fortnightly for the past month-and-a-half.

"Ninety-five per cent are saying they're going to comply," he said.

It’s not fear of the law motivating most of us although police say by 7pm on Sunday, they had responded to 3,519 breaches of the Civil Defence Emergency Act or the Health Act.

"Of these 364 have resulted in prosecutions, 3,064 have been resolved by a warning and there have been 91 youth referrals," a police spokesperson told 1 NEWS.

By 11.59pm next Monday night New Zealanders will have spent 33 days in level 4 lockdown - a state that didn’t even have a name five weeks ago.

In our heads we may be only halfway there, according to clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire.

"From the psychological research it takes 66 days to have a habit well ingrained in your brain to the point where it becomes automatic," she said.

In fact, old habits never die - they are simply overlaid by newer ones. Time, repetition, social reinforcement and motivation all play a part.

All of that will now be tested again as New Zealand shift to Level 3 lockdown with more freedom - for some.

“Those that are switching have to then lay a new habit on top after they've spent four weeks focusing on Level 4 behaviour.”

That’s more work for their brains and for those watching them from what will still feel a lot like Level 4 - albeit now with takeaways available.

It may strain our almost total support for the measures.

"From a psychological perspective, we're going to get better compliance if we stay in Level 4 than switching in and out of Level 3," Ms Maguire said.

Against that, more survey results from Horizon Research are expected to show many New Zealanders are prepared to stay in Level 4 conditions for longer.

"They're worried more about others getting it than they are about themselves," Mr McInman.

That altruism is matched by optimism with 72 per cent of those Horizon Research surveyed over Easter weekend reporting they are confident or very confident that the Level 4 lockdown can contain Covid-19 while just four per cent reported no confidence in the measures.

"When we hold realistic optimism that we are in this together , it is going to work, we are a team of five million, our brain helps us problem solve. Our brain helps us future focus and act adaptively," Ms Maguire said.

The evidence so far points to us using our brains and making the lockdown worthwhile.