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Governments including Sweden’s see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows

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 including Sweden revealed on Saturday.

Governments including Sweden's see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) speaks with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during an EU summit in Brussels on July 20, 2020. AFP

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 percent 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 percent.

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 neighbours, the prime minister's approval rating has shrunk from a positive seven percent to a neutral zero, the poll found.

'Resigned'

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 percent 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 behaviour 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 prioritise limiting the spread of the virus even if the economy suffers.

“In the US, 54 percent want the government to prioritise 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 percent of people sport a face-covering in public.

Even in the United States, where mask-wearing has become a politically polarising issue, 63 percent of respondents said they were in favour.

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COVID-19

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home. 

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