OTTAWA – Since the announced detection of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, a new poll suggests Canadians bracing for the worst.
More than four in five respondents to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they support closing the Canadian border to travellers coming from specific countries where the variant is already present.
In response to the detection of Omicron, Canada quickly put in place travel measures, including banning visitors who have recently travelled through 10 African countries, to curb the spread.
The poll of 1,547 Canadians was conducted Dec. 3-5. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered truly random samples.
Based on respondents’ feedback on the potential impact of Omicron, Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said people are expecting the new variant to be as bad if not worse than the Delta variant.
Forty-four per cent of respondents said Omicron would have a worse impact on case counts than Delta while 43 per cent said the impact would be the same.
“Expectations aren’t overly optimistic,” said Bourque.
Sixty-eight per cent said they would approve of reintroducing restrictions like social distancing and temporary lockdowns in Canada for certain public places and certain activities.
Bourque said the approval rate for restrictions has waned somewhat compared to previous polls, in which more than 80 per cent were in favour of these safety measures.
“I don’t think Canadians are looking forward to having to go back there,” he said.
A majority of respondents said they are in favour of possibly closing Canada’s border with the United States for a period of time.
“We were kind of surprised to see that almost two out of three Canadians are saying we should consider closing back the border with the U.S. although, and for many months, a lot of Canadians were waiting for the day the border would open back,” said Bourque.
Seventy-eight per cent said they would support accelerating plans to introduce a “booster” or third dose of approved COVID-19 vaccines to certain populations.
“I believe if the government was to say, `This is our policy about the booster shot moving forward,”’ that Canadians will be largely responsive, and it would not be an issue at all,” said Bourque.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in Canada, Leger has asked respondents to describe their opinion about the state of the pandemic in the country.
The latest poll showed the a significant drop in the share of respondents who believe the worst of the crisis is behind us.
“Since Omicron has been announced, then we see really a dip in Canadians that are optimistic about where we are in the pandemic,” Bourque said.