Researchers have looked deeper at why some Kiwis refuse to get Covid-19 tests, wear masks or stay home when sick - and their insights could help officials design smarter strategies.
In a study released online ahead of peer review, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research scientists found that people unwilling to follow basic measures either disagreed with them - or simply didn't care about stopping the virus.
To get a snapshot of different views, researchers surveyed about 1000 people in Auckland last September, while the city was still in level 2 in the wake of the August cluster.
"We were concerned that if New Zealand wanted to maintain an elimination strategy for Covid-19 it meant that New Zealanders needed to change their normal habits," lead author Dr Geoff Kaine said.
"Given the reticence of a portion of populations in other countries experiencing large Covid-19 surges to making these behavioural changes, it was important to understand how New Zealanders would respond to Government public health measures."
Importantly, people's willingness to make these changes wasn't just about their own attitudes - but how strongly they felt motivated.
The team found more than two thirds of respondents either "enthusiastically" or "moderately" accepted the science underpinning elimination.
But about 15 per cent weren't sure what to believe, and another 10 per cent thought Covid-19 was a hoax, had been exaggerated, or was no worse than the seasonal flu.
"We were surprised just how strongly motivated most people were to eliminate Covid-19 from New Zealand, and to change their behaviour to achieve that," Kaine said.
"At the same time, the proportion of people thinking that fears about Covid-19 were exaggerated was also surprising."
The researchers analysed views across three areas - wearing masks, staying home when sick, and getting tests - and, in each, broke down responses into separate groupings.
For instance, so-called mask "ambivalents" - making up 27 per cent of respondents - agreed masks could be effective but were less sure about the need to wear them if you were young and healthy.
Those more sceptical - making up 7 per cent - weren't convinced masks were effective, and thought wearing one was an over-reaction.
Similar trends emerged when respondents were asked about self-isolating: 29 per cent were unsure about the practicalities of it, and 11 per cent thought it a waste of time.
This latter group, a relatively high proportion of whom were aged in their 30s, felt they couldn't afford to take time off, and staying home if sick wouldn't be much help if they didn't get tested.
When it came to testing, 12 per cent thought testing should be limited to sick people, and 18 per cent didn't think it was practical or reliable.
Overall, Kaine said the main finding was that people's willingness to take these steps depended on how much they actually cared about preventing spread, as well as their views towards those measures.
"This means people may fail to wear face masks, self-isolate, or get tested for two quite different reasons."
For those against wearing masks, for instance, "you need to be persuade them that it is a good thing to do, or force them to do it, if only in contexts where it matters most, such as wearing face masks on public transport".
"The second reason people may fail to wear face masks is because they just don't care much about stopping the spread of Covid-19," he said.
"They may think it is important, but they don't see Covid-19 as being particularly important to them personally. So they don't really pay much attention.
"And they don't have a strong opinion about the measures, one way or the other."
Changing behaviour among this group meant making it easy and convenient for them to do the right thing - such as providing masks when they caught a train or bus.
"The other thing you can do is reward them for doing what you want, like compensating them for lost income if they have to self-isolate because they feel unwell or test positive to Covid-19."
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson, who wasn't involved in the research, said it was possible those who thought the risks were exaggerated might have been misinformed through social media.
"It may also be that there is a lack of understanding about 'long Covid' – and so young people who can reasonably not worry about dying from Covid-19 – are not fully appreciating these other risks."
Wilson felt that, while it was good to see most Kiwis wearing masks on public transport, the Government could have done more to promote uptake, such as requiring them in public places when the country was in lockdown.
He said officials also made some "poorly considered" statements about mask safety which may have raised unnecessary fears.
"There were lots of missed opportunities to point out the success of mask use with pandemic control in many Asian countries early in the pandemic."
Kaine and colleagues were now analysing data collected from similar surveys carried out away from Auckland, along with other surveys focused on the NZ Covid Tracer app and vaccinations.
It comes after a Massey University study last month found a quarter of Kiwis were still uneasy about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, signalling a big challenge ahead for campaign advocates trying to boost uptake.
But the survey data also pointed to an opportunity the Government might be able to leverage - a clear view among most respondents that they'd get a shot if it meant protecting family, friends and at-risk groups.