Canadian Manufacturing

One in five Canadians think COVID-19 fears blown out of proportion: Poll

Poll shows that 16% of Canadians feel the COVID-19 crisis is partly blown out of proportion while another 4% feels it is blown way out of proportion

March 24, 2020  The Canadian Press

A transmission electron microscope image showing 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19
Image: NIAID-RML

OTTAWA – One in five Canadians weren’t taking the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seriously, a new poll suggests.

In a Leger poll conducted between March 20 and March 23, 16% of respondents said the crisis was partly blown out of proportion and another 4% believed it was blown way out of proportion.

As well, 16% said the crisis was having no impact on them going out to stores, restaurants or other places; 17% said it was having no impact on the social distance they’re keeping from others; and 21% said it was having no impact on visits with friends and family.

While the poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians were taking the crisis seriously and abiding by government advice to stay home, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the 20% who weren’t taking it seriously could jeopardize nationwide efforts to curb the rapid spread of the respiratory virus.

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“That 20% of people must go down if we want to collectively achieve the objectives of flattening out the curve,” Bourque said in a prepared statement, referring to the goal of keeping the number of COVID-19 cases from overwhelming the health care system.

The poll, conducted for The Canadian Press, surveyed 1,508 adult Canadians randomly selected from its online panel. Leger’s internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.

Various provincial governments have begun threatening to impose hefty fines on individuals and businesses that flout orders to close or keep at least two-metres distance from other people. A number of premiers have expressed outrage over Canadians who congregated in parks and on beaches over the weekend while others held house parties or otherwise socialized in groups beyond their immediate family.

There have also been instances of individuals refusing to self-isolate for 14 days after travelling abroad or not abiding by quarantines after testing positive for COVID-19.

Bourque said governments have little choice but to crack down when one-fifth of the population does not appear to be taking the crisis seriously.

The poll suggests that 18-34 year olds were most likely to think the crisis is overblown – 27% compared to 14% for those 55 years of age or more.

But on all other questions, Bourque said the poll found little difference among age groups, including on the level of fear people are feeling.