As COVID-19 gets upgraded to a pandemic, new polls show overall concern about the virus has spiked, leading to behaviour changes such as stockpiling and delaying travel plans.
According to results from a new Insights West poll, which surveyed 814 B.C. residents between Mar. 3 and Mar. 9, more than half (55 per cent) said they felt “very” or “somewhat” worried about the virus, up from 47 per cent in February.
In a news release on Wednesday, the marketing research firm said mounting concerns have been translating to “significant” behaviour changes over the past several weeks, with the majority of respondents reporting washing their hands more often (78 per cent), touching their face less often (61 per cent) and avoiding shaking hands or touching other people (55 per cent).
Around one-third of respondents also reported buying or using hand sanitizer (36 per cent) and stocking up on home necessities (28 per cent), while only a small number (13 per cent) reported wearing face-masks.
Just under one-third of respondents reported visiting restaurants (24 per cent), stores and malls (23 per cent), and gyms and pools less often (18 per cent), and 16 per cent reported working from home more often.
When it came to travel, about one-third (31 per cent) of respondents said they were delaying a trip they had already planned and 13 per cent said they had already cancelled a trip. Most (62 per cent) said they felt COVID-19 will have a negative impact on their future travel plans.
Half (50 per cent) of respondents said they believed the virus will have a “major negative impact” on the Canadian economy and 65 per cent said the same of the global economy.
“This heightened level of awareness and concern about COVID-19 has had a significant effect already on the perceptions, actions and behaviours of B.C. residents,” Insights West president Steve Mossop said. “Overall, citizens are scrambling and making significant changes in their day-to-day lives around cleanliness, activities that involve crowds, and their purchasing behaviours.
“Most concerning is the high level of worry about the impact on the travel industry, and the Canadian and the global economy. As recent stock market gyrations have indicated, the repercussions could be significant.”
A new Angus Reid poll of 1,512 Canadians, also released on Wednesday, showed similar results, in addition to findings about confidence in governments and health care.
The poll, conducted between Mar. 5 and Mar. 6, found that 40 per cent of respondents were worried about personally becoming sick from COVID-19, and 30 per cent would not attend a concert or sporting event, or even go to an airport.
The poll also found half (49 per cent) of respondents thought the Trudeau government had done a good job of handling the crisis, and nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of those in B.C. said the Horgan government had done a good job, too.
The majority of respondents (58 per cent) continued to report confidence in the ability of their community health care system to deal with new cases of the virus, however, this represented a drop from 63 per cent who said the same last month.