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One in five Canadians say COVID-19 pandemic overblown: Poll

As recently as last weekend, 16% of those surveyed by Leger said they still planned to visit stores, restaurants and other places

One in five Canadians weren't taking the deadly COVID-19 pandemic seriously as recently as last weekend, a new poll suggests.

In a Leger poll conducted between Friday and Sunday, 16% of respondents said the crisis was partly blown out of proportion and another 4% believed it was blown way out of proportion.

As well, 16% said the crisis was having no impact on them going out to stores, restaurants or other places; 17% said it was having no impact on the social distance they're keeping from others; and 21% said it was having no impact on visits with friends and family.

Nine per cent said they were still planning to let their kids play outside with other children.

The poll, conducted for The Canadian Press, surveyed 1,508 adult Canadians randomly selected from its online panel. Leger's internet-based survey cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered random samples.

Various provincial governments have begun threatening to impose hefty fines on individuals and businesses that flout orders to close or keep at least two-metres distance from other people. A number of premiers have expressed outrage over Canadians who congregated in parks and on beaches over the weekend, while others held house parties or otherwise socialized in groups beyond their immediate family.

The poll suggests 18-34 year olds were most likely to think the crisis is overblown--27% compared to 14% for those 55 years of age or more.

But on all other questions, Leger said the poll found little difference among age groups, including on the level of fear people are feeling.

Fifty-six per cent said the crisis was already having an impact on their work, 54% said they were stocking up on food and supplies at home and 47% said it's had an impact on their ability to visit loved ones in hospital or long-term care homes.

As well, 48% said the crisis had impacted their retirement savings or other investments, 38% said it's affected their income, 35% their capacity to financially assist other family members, 27% their ability to pay bills and 21% their ability to meet mortgage payments or pay rent.

Sixteen per cent said they'd lost their job.

Fully 63% of respondents said they expect the crisis to last a few months, 12 per cent said more than a year. But 23 per cent predicted it would last a few weeks and two per cent said just a few days.

For the coming week, 60% said they planned to go grocery shopping, 19% planned to get takeout food from a restaurant, 15% planned to get food delivered, 14% intended to go to a convenience store and 11% to a liquor store--though some provinces have now ordered non-essential businesses to close.

Nine per cent said they planned to shop for groceries online, 5% planned to visit friends and 2% intended to patronize a restaurant or bar.

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