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Over half of B.C. residents concerned about COVID-19 and taking precautions: survey

The coronavirus has non-specific symptoms including fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
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March 11, 2020 - 5:03 PM

Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 are on the rise in B.C. with a recent poll suggesting 55 per cent of residents are worried about the virus and are taking steps to protect themselves against its spread.

“This heightened level of awareness and concern about COVID19 has had a significant effect already on the perceptions, actions and behaviours of B.C. residents,” Steve Mossop, president of Insights West said, in a release with the poll results.

“Overall, citizens are scrambling and making significant changes in their day-to-day lives around cleanliness, activities that involve crowds, and their purchasing behaviours. Most concerning is the high level of worry about the impact on the travel industry, and the Canadian and the global economy. As recent stock market gyrations have indicated, the repercussions could be significant.”

Results from an Insights West poll indicate 55 per cent of residents in the province are either very or somewhat concerned about COVID-19. Only a month ago, the proportion of concerned British Columbians was 47 per cent.

The poll also found that 29 per cent have reported being ill over the past several weeks, and of this group, about 20 have reported being worried to some extent about having COVID-19 while the remaining 80 per cent are not worried about it.

That means of the 4.1 million adults in B.C. — 1.2 million have reported being ill recently.

“As concerns about the epidemic escalate, our poll has found that these concerns have translated into significant changes in the behaviours of B.C. residents over the past several weeks,” the release said.

Around 78 per cent reported washing their hands more often, 61 per cent said they’ve been touching their face less often, 55 per cent have avoided shaking hands or touching other people, 36 per cent have been buying/using hand sanitizer, and 28 per cent cleaning or disinfecting homes more than usual.

Only 13 per cent are wearing face masks.

The virus concerns have also resulted in a change of behaviours outside the home with 28 per cent stocking up on home necessities, and 24 per cent visiting restaurants less often, 23 per cent going to stores/malls less, and 18 per cent going to gyms/pools less. Around 16 per cent are also working from home more often while 12 per cent are cancelling children’s activities.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said on Wednesday, March 11, that seven more cases have now been confirmed.

Two of these new cases, she said, are care workers who worked at the care home where a man was living before he passed away. Another is a man in his 20s who lives in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, and the other is a woman in her 50s who lives in the Fraser Health Region. Three of the new cases are linked to Egypt and include a visitor in his 70s whose relatives in the Fraser Valley are now also in isolation.

The total number of affected B.C. residents is now 46.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Wednesday as the new coronavirus, which was unknown to world health officials just three months ago, has rapidly spread to more than 121,000 people from Asia to the Middle East, Europe and North America.

“In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteen-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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