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Some Canadians believe officials exaggerate threat of COVID-19, poll suggests

Last Updated Sep 15, 2020 at 1:34 pm MDT

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

OTTAWA — A new survey suggests there are Canadians who believe that warnings from public officials about the threat of COVID-19 are vastly overblown.

Almost one-quarter of respondents in an online poll made public today by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they believe public health and government officials exaggerate in their warnings, including about the need for measures like physical distancing to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Regionally, respondents in Alberta were more likely to believe the threat was embellished, followed by Atlantic Canada and Quebec, with Ontario at the bottom.

The poll also found that 25 per cent of respondents believe COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the seasonal flu.

Albertans were also the least likely of any province to believe in a second wave being on its way, polled at 72 per cent. The only respondents to top Alberta in this category are the Americans where only 60 per cent believe in a second wave.

The survey also found Albertans were the least likely to be afraid of catching the coronavirus.

Broken down by age, younger respondents were more likely than those over 55 to believe statements were being exaggerated.

The online poll was conducted Sept. 11 to 13 and surveyed 1,539 adult Canadians. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the results may explain something else that came up in the survey — that a majority of respondents said they have relaxed how strictly they adhere to public health recommendations.

Among those recommendations are things such as wearing a mask in public, avoiding large gatherings and trying to maintain a two-metre distance between people.