Heather Owen and Jason Allsopp: Most British Columbians think the worst of the pandemic is behind us

Opinion: But behaviors also tell us that many are not ready to return to previously restricted activities

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For many, memories of the pandemic will mean recalling observance of public health restrictions – staying home, social distancing, wearing face masks. To the relief of many, these have mostly been lifted. Does this mean that we think the pandemic is over?

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Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, recently reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is underway. On June 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his point by testing positive for COVID for the second time.

In a recent Leger poll of British Columbians, we learned that 79% believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us. It’s also interesting to note that when we asked this question two months earlier, 55% of British Columbians said the worst was behind us, which represents a dramatic positive change in people’s perception of of the pandemic. So, do we think the pandemic is over?

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This positive change is mitigated when considering individuals’ fear of contracting COVID – 51% of British Columbians say they are still afraid. This is perhaps unsurprising considering the data published on the provincial COVID dashboard – 50 new deaths this week and 276 people hospitalized with the virus.

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Since the lifting of public health orders in early April, many British Columbians have resumed activities put on hold for the pandemic, but an almost equal number have not. While 38% say they have stopped wearing masks in indoor public places, 32% say they still wear masks. Twenty-eight percent of B.C. residents are hosting gatherings at home, and 29% aren’t yet. When it comes to non-essential travel, 31% travel and 29% stay home.

Even though public spaces seem to be filled with people who aren’t obviously concerned about the virus, only 55% of British Columbians say they feel comfortable going to restaurants and bars with outsiders. at home, and only 43% of people say they are comfortable attending events in person. So, do we think the pandemic is over or not?

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We know that the virus has touched many lives in very personal and serious ways. In fact, 58% of British Columbians have come into close contact with the virus so far – either having it themselves or having a loved one test positive. Sadly, five percent of the population has lost a loved one to COVID. In almost all questions asked in our survey, those who were personally affected by the virus were less likely to engage in pre-pandemic activities.

While everyone eagerly awaits the day when this pandemic is truly over, our collective behavior tells us that day is not yet here. And that our cautious optimism is, most likely, justified.

Heather Owen and Jason Allsopp are both vice presidents of Leger’s Vancouver office. The survey data comes from Leger’s BC Omnibus surveys, conducted June 3-5 among 1,002 British Columbians and Leger’s North American Tracker, collected April 8-10 among 1,539 Canadians. For more information visit leger360.com


Leger invites you to participate in future public opinion surveys by clicking here

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