Delta variant puts a damper on national optimism

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / iDesign)

A new survey by Leger suggests Canadians are feeling less optimistic about the weeks ahead than they did a month ago, and the Delta variant is behind their anxiety.

In early July, the polling firm, which has been keeping a tab on our attitudes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, said over six out of ten respondents felt the worst of the virus was behind us. It was the sunniest result in 18 months.

Now, only 54 per cent of Canadian respondents feel that way, and more of us think the worst is ahead or already here.

The survey was conducted last weekend.

The percentage of Canadians who think the worst is yet to come as cases surge in the U.S. and are climbing in Canada rose six percentage points to 17 per cent. Another nine per cent believe the worst has already arrived, and one in five don’t know what to think.

Even the Americans Leger surveyed feel less optimistic. Of them, only 39 per cent think we’ve survived the worst COVID-19 has to throw at us, while the same result either think the pandemic will get worse before it gets better or we are in the most dangerous phase yet.

Back home, Saskatchewan lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions while Alberta plans to by the middle of the month.

Public health officials believe it could be a big mistake if the virus spreads again, but there is some indication it could be a political error too.

The survey said most Canadians, 73 per cent, are not ready to lift all COVID-19 restrictions. In Alberta, the percentage that responded some should remain was 62 per cent and 58 per cent of those living in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In Ontario, where the Ford government has not yet set a date to move into the final step of its Roadmap to Reopening plan, 77 per cent said some restrictions should remain.

The overwhelming majority of infections in Ontario have so far involved the Alpha or original strain, but the Delta variant has been gaining prominence with 4,884 cases as of Tuesday.

The American Society of Microbiologists said the Delta strain is 40 to 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha strain and has 1000 times the viral load. The professional organization for scientists who study viruses said 83 per cent of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. involve unvaccinated people sick with this strain.