Kindred Hospital Westminster workers protesting in Westminster, California, on July 22, 2020. -Reuters
Governments are fast losing support for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak from a public that widely believes death and infection figures to be higher than statistics show, a survey of six countries revealed on Saturday.
Support for the federal government of the United States, the country with the most reported infections and deaths, dropped by four percentage points from mid-June, with 44 per cent of respondents declaring themselves dissatisfied, said a report by the Kekst CNC communications consulting group.
In Britain, just over a third of respondents approved of their government's actions, a three-point decline in one month, according to the report, based on an opinion poll conducted over five days in mid-July. It also included France, Sweden, Japan and Germany. "In most countries this month, support for national governments is falling," the report said.
The notable exception was France, where approval rose by six percentage points, yielding a dissatisfaction rate of 41 per cent. France, which has the world's seventh-highest Covid-19 toll, has all but emerged from lockdown but has seen infections increase in recent days, prompting the government to order face masks in all enclosed public spaces. In Sweden, which took a controversial soft approach to lockdown and has a higher toll than its neighbors, the prime minister's approval rating has shrunk from a positive seven per cent to a neutral zero, the poll found.
People who participated in the survey - 1,000 per country polled - generally believed the coronavirus to be more widespread, and more deadly, than official figures show. "Despite relatively low incidence rates compared to earlier in the pandemic in most countries (with the exception of the US), people significantly overestimate the spread and fatality rate of the disease," Kekst CNC said.
In Sweden and Britain, the public believed that six or seven per cent of people have died from the coronavirus, about 100 times the reported rate.
In the United States, respondents estimated that almost a tenth of the population had died of the virus, more than 200 times the real toll, while Germans thought their tally was 300 times higher than what has been reported.
Such views, said the report, "will be impacting consumer behavior and wider attitudes - business leaders and governments will need to be conscious of this as they move to restart economies and transition into living with coronavirus for the medium to longer term."
The poll also revealed that fear of a second outbreak wave is growing, and that an ever larger number of people believe the impacts will last for more than a year.
People "are becoming resigned to living with coronavirus for the forseeable future, and looking to leaders and business to pave the way forward," the report said.
They are also increasingly likely to prioritize limiting the spread of the virus even if the economy suffers.
"In the US, 54 per cent want the government to prioritize limiting the spread of the virus over protecting the economy," it said.
The poll found that mask-wearing was generally popular, except in Sweden, where only about 15 per cent of people sport a face-covering in public.
Even in the United States, where mask-wearing has become a politically polarizing issue, 63 per cent of respondents said they were in favour.
--- AFP, Paris
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