Impact Canada

COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring (COSMO Canada)

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Implementing the WHO Behavioural Insights tool on COVID-19 to inform response efforts, including policy, interventions and communications.

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To support federal response efforts, Impact Canada is leading the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Behavioural Insights (BI) Tool on COVID-19 in the Canadian context. This work is being led in collaboration with the Public Opinion Research Team within the Privy Council Office’s (PCO) Communications and Consultation Secretariat, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office in coordinating government communications in accordance with key priorities.

Insights garnered will inform the federal response to COVID-19, enabling whole-of-government decision making to meet the specific, changing needs of citizens. Data visualizations will also be published here for citizens and organizations alike to keep a pulse on evolving, nationwide trends.

Waves

  • Wave 1: 2,023 Canadians surveyed between April 11 and 15, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 2: 2,098 Canadians surveyed between April 21 and 25, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 3: 2,000 Canadians surveyed between May 5 and 10, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 4: 2,152 Canadians surveyed between May 27 and June 1, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 5: 2,169 Canadians surveyed between June 23 and June 28, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 6: 2,141 Canadians surveyed between July 17 and July 22, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 7: 2,129 Canadians surveyed between August 13 and August 17, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 8: 2,117 Canadians surveyed between September 11 and 15, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 9: 2,055 Canadians surveyed between November 2 and 9, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 10: 2,125 Canadians surveyed between December 16 and 22, 2020 [see results]
  • Wave 11: 2,037 Canadians surveyed between February 9 to 16, 2021 [see results]

Key Insights

  • Wave 1

    Pandemic Outlook

    Most Canadians currently feel that the COVID-19 pandemic will get worse. Findings can be used as an early signal for how long Canadians expect pandemic response to last [see chart].

    Concerns

    On average, Canadians feel confident about their knowledge related to preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, Canadians are not as confident when it comes to their knowledge related to COVID-19 in general [see chart].

    Canadians recognize the seriousness of COVID-19 and the importance of working together to overcome the pandemic. The majority of Canadians are worried about COVID-19, with many feeling negatively impacted by the virus (e.g. stress, pervasive thoughts, helplessness relating to COVID-19). Currently, Canadians are interested in information relating to treatments, symptoms, and methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Changes over time will inform what information should be disseminated through government channels [see chart].

    Knowledge

    Canadians are fairly knowledgeable about which groups are at risk for severe outcomes due to COVID-19, but there is greater variability in perceptions of pregnant woman, infants, and small children [see chart].

    Vaccine Hesitancy

    Currently, only 70% of Canadians indicated that they would get an effective or safe COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Further work is needed to improve the potential uptake of a vaccine ahead of its availability [see chart].

    See Wave 1 results
  • Wave 2

    Pandemic Outlook

    There has been a shift from wave to wave in how Canadians are viewing the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, with most now believing that the worst is either currently happening or is behind us [see chart].

    Preventative Measures

    Nearly half of Canadians in Wave 2 believe that eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, despite limited evidence to suggest so [see chart].

    Most Canadians continue to adhere to key public health advice (e.g., physically distancing, handwashing, self-quarantining), and report that it will be very easy to maintain hand washing even when COVID-19 restrictions ease. However, Canadians believe that it will be more challenging to maintain other measures, such as working from home, physical distancing, and keeping social encounters to a minimum [see chart].

    Shopping Behaviours

    Most Canadians report having shopped locally, or planning to. Almost 80% of Canadians report grocery shopping once a week or less, but nearly half have had trouble finding essential food items such as milk and flour [see chart].

    Concerns

    Concern is decreasing in terms of the state of the COVID-19 crisis, along with corresponding economic, health system, and personal impacts. Nevertheless, stress levels remain elevated with few Canadians expressing satisfaction with their life as a whole at the moment [see chart].

    Views on Lifting Restrictions

    Most Canadians believe that existing restrictions and closures on schools, and physical distancing should remain in place for weeks to months. Many, however, would like to see non-essential businesses open sooner, rather than later [see chart].

    See Wave 2 results
  • Wave 3

    Pandemic Outlook

    Currently, 58% of Canadians believe that we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis, or that the worst is behind us, up from 41% in Wave 1 [see chart].

    Concerns

    Roughly 4 in 10 Canadians have recently had some trouble sleeping, have felt anxious, lonely or depressed, while a quarter have experienced relationship strain with household members. About 1 in 10 have had physical reactions when thinking about their experience with COVID-19 [see chart].

    Preventative Behaviours

    While the use of most preventative measures have decreased from wave 1, the use of masks in public has increased with each wave [see chart]. Willingness to maintain behaviours has also risen slightly, notably physically distancing and changing from group to solo activities [see chart].

    Shopping Behaviours

    Most Canadians report having changed how or when they shop for groceries [see chart].

    Views on Lifting Restrictions

    Canadians report that restrictions on outdoor spaces and non-essential services should be lifted sooner than those on schools/daycare centres and gatherings [see chart].

    Less than half of Canadians report that they are likely to eat in a restaurant within the next year. Even fewer report that they are likely to participate in social gatherings, or fly on a plane [see chart].

    See Wave 3 results
  • Wave 4

    More Canadians are feeling that the “worst of the crisis is behind us”

    As we move through the crisis, more people are feeling that the “worst of the crisis is behind us” (from 6% in mid-April to 36% at the end of May) and fewer Canadians are worried about transmitting COVID-19 to people around them. However, an equal portion of Canadians still feel that the worst of the crisis is yet to come [see chart].

    Support for some public health measures is declining

    Support for the continued closures of daycare centres and schools, restricted access to long-term care facilities, physical distancing and cancelling large events for an additional one to six months or longer remains fairly high, but these numbers have decreased over each Wave of the survey. The percentage of respondents who think that the closures of non-essential services and outdoor spaces need to end within 30 days or sooner increased from Wave 3 to Wave 4 [see chart].

    Compliance with some public health measures has declined

    Compliance levels with many protective behaviours have declined. However, mask-wearing while out in public has increased over each Wave (from 22% in Wave 1 to 36% in Wave 4) [see chart].

    See Wave 4 results
  • Wave 5

    More Canadians are feeling that the “worst of the crisis is behind us”

    As we move through the crisis, more people are feeling that the “worst of the crisis is behind us” (from 6% in Wave 1 in mid-April to 41% in Wave 5 at the end of June). However, a significant portion (35%) of Canadians still feel that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come” [see chart].

    Canadians are expecting long-lasting impacts of COVID-19

    Canadians are expecting some impacts of COVID-19 to be long-lasting. For example, many Canadians will avoid travelling to the US, going to large gatherings, taking public transit, flying on a plane, and using a ride-sharing service within the next year [see chart].

    Support for public health measures remains steady

    Public support for extending measures such as cancelling large gatherings and physical distancing remains strong. However, support for some public health measures such as closing of outdoor spaces and non-essential services has declined [see chart].

    Adherence to public health measures has declined

    Compliance with many protective behaviours has declined. However, mask-wearing while out in public has increased over each wave (from 22% in Wave 1 to 40% in Wave 5) as more cities make mask-wearing mandatory in indoor public spaces (e.g., Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Kingston) [see chart].

    There are potentially diverging attitudes towards US and other international travel restrictions

    The number of respondents that disagree that travel restrictions between Canada and the US should be lifted increased from 69% in Wave 4 to 71% in Wave 5. The number of respondents that disagree that international travel (not including the US) should be allowed to resume declined from 58% in Wave 4 to 52% in Wave 5. It will be important to monitor this potential trend as opinion could diverge further as the number of cases in the US continues to climb [see chart].

    Vaccine confidence rates have declined

    Only 65% of those surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available. The number of people who disagree has doubled since April, increasing from 6% in Wave 1 to 12% in Wave 5. Safety-related concerns were the most prevalent reason provided for not wanting a vaccine [see chart].

    See Wave 5 results
  • Wave 6

    More Canadians are feeling that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come”

    Up until Wave 5 of the survey, there was a steady increase in the portion of people who thought “the worst of the crisis is behind us.” The proportion of Canadians who felt that “the worst has yet to come” remained steady through Waves 2 to 5. However, between Waves 5 and 6 there was an increase in the portion of people who think that “the worst is yet to come” (from 35% in Wave 5 to 42% in Wave 6), and a decrease in the portion who reported that the “worst of the crisis is behind us” (from 41% in Wave 5 to 34%) [see chart].

    Support for public health measures remains steady

    There is strong public support for extending some measures for six months or longer (physical distancing and cancelling large gatherings), and these numbers have increased between Waves 5 and 6 [see chart].

    Canadians see COVID-19 as a major threat to the country’s economy and the health of the Canadian population as a whole

    Respondents were more likely to indicate that COVID-19 was a threat to the Canadian economy than their personal finances. Similarly, people were more likely to indicate that COVID-19 was a threat to the health of the population as a whole, rather than their personal health. 47% indicate that COVID-19 is a threat to the rights and freedoms of the Canadian population [see chart].

    Opinions towards resuming US and other international travel restrictions are diverging

    The number of respondents that strongly disagree or disagree that travel restrictions between Canada and the US should be lifted increased from 69% in Wave 4 to 81% in Wave 6. The number of respondents that strongly disagree or disagree that international travel should be allowed to resume declined from 58% in Wave 4 to 54% in Wave 6 [see chart].

    Vaccine confidence rates have declined since the first Wave of the survey, and vaccine hesitancy appears to be driven by safety concerns and the rapid development of the vaccine

    Only 65% of those surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available. The number of people who disagree doubled from 6% in Wave 1 to 12% in Wave 5, and remained stable in Wave 6. Concerns around the safety of a vaccine, a lack of research and testing, and the newness of the vaccine were the most prevalent reasons provided for not wanting to receive a safe vaccine once developed [see chart].

    See Wave 6 results
  • Wave 7

    Included an increased focus on Canadians‘ knowledge and attitudes related to vaccine development, intentions to get an influenza shot in the Fall/Winter, and an increased look at the use of alcohol and other substances.

    Many Canadians still think that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come”

    Up until Wave 5 of the survey, there was a steady increase in the number of respondents who thought “the worst of the crisis is behind us,” however, from Wave 5 to Wave 7 the percentage has declined from 41% to 33%. The percentage of respondents who think that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come” increased from 35% in Wave 5 to 43% by Wave 7. Certain groups are more likely to think that the worst is yet to come. For example, Canadians who were unemployed prior to the crisis are most likely to indicate that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come” (51%)  [see chart].

    Canadians are expecting long-lasting impacts of COVID-19

    Canadians are expecting the impacts of COVID-19 to be long-lasting and many Canadians will avoid travelling to the US, going to large gatherings, flying on a plane, and using a ride-sharing service within the next year. Intentions to engage in some activities have decreased as the pandemic progresses. For example, the number of Canadians that think that it is likely that they will fly on a plane decreased from 19% in Wave 3 to 13% by Wave 7, and intentions to attend a large gathering decreased from 14% in Wave 3 to 8% by Wave 7 [see chart].

    Support for public health measures remains steady

    There is strong public support for extending some health measures for six months or longer and these numbers have increased or remained stable across waves. A majority of respondents believe that physical distancing should be extended for 6+ months, indicating that many Canadians are aware that COVID-19 will continue to impact day-to-day life into 2021 [see chart].

    Trust in government information sources continues to decline

    Trust in government information sources has declined since the beginning of the crisis  [see chart].

    Some Canadians are consuming more alcohol than they were prior to the crisis

    The majority of respondents (63%) report that their alcohol consumption has remained the same. However, 21% of respondents reported that the number of days that they drink alcohol in a typical week has increased since February [see chart].

    Vaccine confidence continues to decline, and hesitancy appears to be driven by concerns about a lack of research and testing and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine

    Only 63% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available. The number of people who disagree doubled from 6% in Wave 1 to 12% in Wave 5 and remained stable in Wave 6 and Wave 7. Concerns around a lack of research and testing, the safety of a vaccine, and the newness of the vaccine are the most prevalent reasons for not wanting to receive a safe vaccine once developed [see chart].

    See Wave 7 results
  • Wave 8

    Continued focus on vaccine confidence and vaccine hesitancy along with an increased focus on the harms and risks associated with increased alcohol use.

    More and more Canadians think that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come”

    Up until Wave 5 of the survey, there was a steady increase in the number of respondents who thought “the worst of the crisis is behind us,” however, from Wave 5 to Wave 8 the percentage has declined from 41% to 26%. The percentage of respondents who think that the “worst of the crisis is yet to come” increased from 35% in Wave 5 to 49% by Wave 8  [see chart].

    Increasing numbers of Canadians think that COVID-19 is ”spreading fast”

    Over Waves 1 to 7 there was a gradual decline in the proportion of Canadians who felt that COVID-19 was “spreading fast” (W1: 56%, W7: 31%), however, in Wave 8, this number increased slightly (35%). [see chart].

    Canadians are expecting long-lasting impacts of COVID-19

    Canadians are expecting the impacts of COVID-19 to be long-lasting and many Canadians will avoid travelling to the US, going to large gatherings, flying on a plane, and using a ride-sharing service within the next year. Intentions to engage in some activities have decreased as the pandemic progresses. For example, the number of Canadians that think that it is likely that they will fly on a plane decreased from 19% in Wave 3 to 12% in Wave 8, and intentions to attend a large gathering decreased from 14% in Wave 3 to 8% in Wave 8 [see chart].

    Support for public health measures remains steady

    There is strong public support for extending some health measures for six months or longer and these numbers have increased or remained stable across waves. A majority of respondents believe that physical distancing should be extended for 6+ months, indicating that many Canadians are aware that COVID-19 will continue to impact day-to-day life into 2021 [see chart].

    Opposition to lifting US and other international travel restrictions remains strong

    The number of respondents that strongly disagree or disagree that travel restrictions between Canada and the US should be lifted has remained mostly stable between Waves 6 and 8. 77% of respondents are opposed to lifting Canada-US travel restrictions and 56% of respondents disagree that international (non-US) travel should be allowed to resume [see chart].

    Vaccine confidence has declined since the beginning of the pandemic, and a consistent portion of Canadians remain undecided about whether to get vaccinated

    65% of respondents strongly agree or agree that they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available and only 43% think that vaccines are completely safe. 24% of Canadians are neutral or undecided about whether to get vaccinated. The proportion of people who disagree doubled from 6% in Wave 1 to 12% in Wave 5 and has remained stable since then. Concerns around a lack of research and testing, the safety/effectiveness of a vaccine, and the newness of the vaccine were the most prevalent reasons for not wanting to receive a safe vaccine once developed [see chart].

    See Wave 8 results
  • Wave 9

    Public Risk Perceptions

    In Wave 9, there was a significant increase in the proportion of the sample who think that “we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis,” and a sharp decline in the portion of people who think that the worst of the crisis is behind us. The highest proportion of respondents still think that “the worst of the crisis is yet to come”. Certain groups are more likely to think that “the worst is yet to come,” including those aged 55+ (54%), residents living in British Columbia and the Yukon (59%) and Alberta and the Northwest Territories (53%).

    Information Sources

    Trust in government information sources has declined since the beginning of the pandemic. Respondents aged 18-34 have consistently reported lower levels of trust in most government sources. Trust in government information sources also varies by province/territory and is generally the highest in British Columbia and the Yukon, and the lowest in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

    Compliance with Protective Behaviours

    Adherence to key protective behaviours such as mask wearing (81%), using hand sanitizer (79%), frequent hand washing (72%) and physical distancing (71%) remains high. Men and younger respondents in the sample continue to indicate lower compliance with recommended protective behaviours.

    Holidays

    Despite public health guidance in some provinces and high numbers of people indicating they were aware of gathering limits in their area (89%), a high proportion of respondents report that they had indoor, in-person gatherings at Thanksgiving (42%). More Canadians will observe December holidays than Thanksgiving, and a sizable proportion may not heed public health advice to limit gatherings.

    Vaccine confidence

    The Wave 9 survey asked respondents about their intentions to vaccinate across several different measures to add nuance to our growing understanding of hesitancy and its drivers. Using a 7-point scale from ‘Strongly Disagree’ to ‘Strongly Agree’, respondents were asked whether they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available and recommended to them. 61% either agreed or strongly agreed that they would. This declined in Wave 9 after remaining stable at about 65% since Wave 4 (May 26-June 1).

    Returning to "Normal"

    52% of respondents visited with friends and family indoors in the past two weeks, signalling that while most do not intend to gather in large groups many people are still seeing friends and family. Only 23% of respondents think that it is likely that they will go to an indoor gathering with ten or more people within the next year.

    Travel Intentions and Border Measures

    A majority of respondents would like to see both US restrictions (86%) and international restrictions (83%) remain in place for 1-6+ months. There is low comfort overall with increasing travel, however, Canadians may be slightly more comfortable with increased travel from countries with fewer COVID-19 cases.

    See Wave 9 results
  • Wave 10

    Public Risk Perceptions

    Significantly more respondents indicated “we are currently experiencing the worst of the crisis” in Waves 9 and 10 compared to rates from Waves 5 to 8. Respondents aged 55+ are more likely to think that “the worst is yet to come” (40%), compared to those aged 18-34 (24%).

    Information Sources

    Trust in government information sources were at the highest levels early on in the pandemic. Trust levels gradually declined thereafter, but have remained relatively stable since the summer months. There was a slight increase in trust in some information sources between Waves 9 and 10. Across time, respondents aged 55+ have consistently reported the highest levels of trust in most government sources and trust in government information sources has varied by province/territory. In Wave 10 PT breakdown, trust continues to be generally the highest in British Columbia and the Yukon.

    Compliance with Protective Behaviours

    The Wave 10 survey included new questions related to pandemic fatigue. Adherence to key protective behaviours remains reportedly high, and many participants are not getting tired of having to wash their hands frequently, physical distancing or wearing a mask. However, most participants (80%) indicate they are getting tired or somewhat tired of having to avoid gathering with loved ones.

    Mental Health & Well-being

    Wave 10 observed the highest number of respondents reporting feeling depressed (15%), lonely (16%) and anxious (17%) most or all of the time since tracking of these items began in Wave 3. Disaggregation of the data by age suggests the pandemic has been particularly difficult for respondents aged 18-34 with regard to mental health.

    Vaccine Confidence

    The Wave 10 survey asked respondents about their intentions to vaccinate across several different measures to add nuance to our growing understanding of hesitancy and its drivers. Using a 7-point scale from ‘Strongly Disagree’ to ‘Strongly Agree’, respondents were asked whether they would get a safe vaccine if it becomes available and is recommended to them. 65% either agreed or strongly agreed that they would (rising slightly from 61% in Wave 9, but trending downward across waves over time).

    Returning to "Normal"

    While the arrival of an approved COVID-19 vaccine was met with optimism in the media, most respondents do not anticipate that a return to normal is on the immediate horizon. When asked about the likelihood of re-engaging in behaviors that were normal pre-pandemic, only a minority of respondents think it is likely that they will go to a large indoor gathering (22%), fly on a plane (14%), or travel to the US (9%) in the next year. Additionally, only 19% of respondents agree or strongly agree that by summer 2021 they will be able to travel and socialize like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic (an additional 57% are unsure).

    Travel Intentions and Border Measures

    A majority of respondents indicate that they would like to see both US restrictions (86%) and international restrictions (84%) remain in place for 1-6+ months. When respondents are asked to rate their level of comfort with increasing travel with certain countries there is low comfort overall. However, respondents are slightly more comfortable with increased travel from countries with fewer COVID-19 cases.

    See Wave 10 results
  • Wave 11

    Public Risk Perceptions

    The proportion of respondents who indicated that “the worst of the crisis is behind us” increased sharply between Waves 10 (10%) and 11 (25%), as the number of respondents who think we are “currently experiencing the worst of the crisis” and think that “the worst is behind us” declined.

    Information Sources

    Trust in and use of government information sources was highest early on in the pandemic and has declined since. In Wave 11, use of and trust in government information sources about COVID-19 (e.g., federal public health leaders, daily press conferences) are at the lowest levels COSMO has observed since data collection began in April 2020.

    Compliance with Protective Behaviours

    The majority of COSMO respondents report always or almost always complying with most public health measures such as mask wearing (85%), frequent hand washing (71%, and physical distancing (75%). In Wave 11, respondents who reported adhering to public health measures were asked what their motivations were for practicing recommended behaviours.

    Mental Health & Well-being

    Reported life satisfaction among respondents in Wave 11 was at the lowest point COSMO has observed since data collection began in April 2020. Just over a third of respondents (35%) are very satisfied/satisfied with their lives (down from 45% in Wave 1), while 24% are very dissatisfied/dissatisfied. In addition, high numbers of respondents continue to report feeling depressed (39%), lonely (39%) and anxious (45%) occasionally or most/all of the time.

    Vaccine Confidence

    COSMO asks respondents about their intentions to vaccinate across several different measures to add nuance to our growing understanding of hesitancy and its drivers. Overall vaccine intentions increased in Wave 11 and more respondents indicate that they will get a vaccine as soon as it is available to them. At the time of data collection, 4% of respondents indicated that they had already received at least one dose of a vaccine. These respondents were excluded from the vaccine intentions questions.

    Returning to "Normal"

    When asked about the likelihood of re-engaging in behaviors that were normal pre-pandemic, only a minority of respondents think it is likely that they will go to a large indoor gathering (22%), fly on a plane (13%), or travel to the US (10%) in the next year. Young respondents (18-34) are more likely to say that it is likely that they will engage in these behaviours in the next year, and older respondents (55+) report that they are less likely to do so.

    Travel Intentions and Border Measures

    A majority of respondents indicate that they would like to see both US restrictions (86%) and international restrictions (84%) remain in place for 1-6+ months. When respondents are asked to rate their level of comfort with increasing travel with certain countries there is low comfort overall. However, respondents are slightly more comfortable with increased travel from countries with fewer COVID-19 cases.

    See Wave 11 results

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Study details

Objective

To inform COVID-19 outbreak response efforts, including policy, interventions and communications.

Methods

An online panel of Canadian participants from across the country will be completing a 15 minute survey every 2 weeks.

Contact Us

For more information, contact the Impact and Innovation Unit of the Privy Council Office.