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As outbreak hits home, Canadians brace for worse on health, economic fronts

The threat, severity and infection rates of what had initially been a new viral outbreak a world away has in the last two weeks caused local, provincial and federal governments to take steps unseen before in the lifetimes of millions in this country, the magnitude of which has left many reeling.

As the COVID-19 virus has spread across the country and claimed more lives, a solid majority of Canadians (68%) now say they view the threat of a coronavirus outbreak as serious, representing more than a fifty per cent increase in the number saying so just ten days ago.

These are among the latest findings of the latest tracking survey data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute.

That said, fully one-in-three (32%) (representing approximately 10 million Canadians) continue to view the situation as one that’s been “overblown”. Those who say this are more likely to either be under the age of 35, a middle-aged male, or someone who voted for the Conservative Party of Canada is the last federal election.

Meantime, anxiety over personally falling ill – or seeing it happen to a friend or family member – is also dramatically increasing. Where three-in-ten were worried for themselves at the beginning of February, twice as many are now (57%). Where fewer than half (39%) were worried about family and friends six weeks ago, fully three-quarters (76%) are now.

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Against this backdrop, a country that can sometimes be skeptical of its institutions is placing more trust in them than before. More Canadians are expressing trust in the information news organizations and officials are offering about the crisis than they were a week ago. More Canadians are inclined to say their provincial governments are doing a good job handling the crisis over the same period of time. And in every region of the country with the exception of Quebec (where sentiment is unchanged) more people say the same about the federal government’s performance.

More Key Findings:

  • Nearly one-in-five (17%) Canadians worry that if they contract COVID-19, their illness will be severe or life threatening. Considering the increased vulnerability to the virus of older Canadians, this sentiment almost doubles (33%) among those over the age of 65.
  • Enhanced handwashing is the new normal: the number saying they are doing this more has doubled between the beginning of February and now (41% to 82%, respectively).
  • That said, Canadians are more circumspect over whether such behaviour changes will have a significant impact on slowing or stopping the outbreak: one-quarter (24%) say their efforts will have a “huge” impact. Most (65%) say there is only so much they can possibly do.

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