In some countries the year of the pandemic is coming to a close, with successful vaccination campaigns providing an exit from pandemic restrictions. But that’s not the case everywhere.
This week the world passed the 179 million case mark, with over 3.88 million deaths attributed to COVID-19. In many countries, vaccine rollouts are picking up steam and optimism about a return to normal is increasing. However, where vaccinations have lagged, the pandemic continues to take a toll. For this week’s COVID-19 update, the Chicago Council Survey team looks at polling results from the Japan, South Korea, France, and Brazil.
- Eight in ten Japanese (83%) are anxious about the prospect of the Olympics leading to a surge in coronavirus cases.
- As vaccination rates increase in South Korea, approval of the government went from 50 percent in May to 64 percent in June.
- As France continues its deconfinement, a majority (54%) of French people hold a favorable view of President Emmanuel Macron’s health plan, up from 36 percent last month.
- A May 11-12 poll in Brazil finds that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Jair Bolsonaro’s likely opponent in the 2022 presidential election, would win by a wide margin if the election were conducted today.
788,009 cases, 14,451 deaths
As the most recent wave of COVID-19 cases in Japan subsides, the public mood is slowly becoming more optimistic. The latest polling from Asahi Shimbun, conducted June 19-20, found that a third of Japanese (32%) give the government positive marks for its COVID-19 response, up from 23 percent last month, though a majority continue to give the government negative marks (55%, down from 67%). Half of Japanese (51%) also say that plans to lift the state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures on June 20 comes too soon (33% say the timing is appropriate; 10% say it is too slow).
The one element of the government’s COVID-19 response that gets favorable reviews is the vaccination campaign, with six in ten Japanese (60%) giving the government a positive review, up from 47 percent last month. This growing public approval matches the rapid rise in Japan’s vaccination pace, with the country now administering more than a million doses a day. Adjusted for Japan’s smaller population, this is nearly equal to the United States’ peak vaccination rate in mid-April.
Despite the protections afforded by vaccination, many Japanese plan to continue with the same safety behaviors after vaccination. Eight in ten (82%) say they plan to wear masks the same as before being vaccinated. And half of Japanese (55%) say they plan to continue exercising the same level of self-restraint in going out and traveling, though a third (33%) say they plan to go out more after being vaccinated.
With the Olympics a month away, support for holding the Games is also starting to slowly rise, though the public remains divided. A third of Japanese (34%) now say they should be held this summer, up from only 14 percent last month. A similar proportion says the Games should be canceled (32%, down from 43% last month), And another three in ten say they should be postponed further (30%, down from 40%).
Though up to ten thousand domestic fans will be allowed into the Olympic venues, the public is split here as well over whether there should be no spectators allowed (53%), or if a limited number of fans should be allowed in (42%). And in all questions about the Games, fears of another wave of infections is never far away: eight in ten Japanese (83%) are anxious about the prospect of the Olympics leading to a surge in cases.
152,545 cases, 2,007 deaths
The daily virus count in South Korea was 645 on June 23, up from 394 the previous day.
Last week, Korea reached its goal of giving a quarter of the population their first dose and more people are willing to get their shots. A June 4-6 survey conducted by the Korea Broadcasting System and Seoul National University found that 76 percent want to get vaccinated—the highest number since their polls began in March.
Public opinion towards the government also improved from 50 percent last month to 64 percent, according to a June 15-16 survey by Gallup Korea. However, responses were divided along ideological lines—more liberals (84%) said the government was 'doing a good job' compared to moderates (64%) and conservatives (44%).
As inoculations pick up pace, the government will relax social distancing protocols from July 1, allow get togethers of larger groups, and extend business hours. Certain gyms and indoor golf driving ranges can stay open until midnight and larger capacities will be allowed at concerts and outdoor sporting events.
Yet some experts disapprove of the new measures as less than 10 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Mishaps are also occurring. Some clinics are injecting more dosage than is needed while others are administering too little. The shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines also continues to be a problem resulting in appointments being canceled.
Legal blind spots within the courier industry have also come into the spotlight. Like in other countries, demand for delivery services greatly increased during the pandemic, but working conditions received less scrutiny. In addition to making deliveries, couriers have also been tasked with sorting parcels—a major contributor to overwork.
In a June 2-3 self-administered survey conducted by the Parcel Delivery Workers' Solidarity Union—which represents workers from both private logistics firms as well as the Korea Post—85 percent said they were responsible for sorting parcels. After going on strike over the last two weeks, they reached a deal last Friday with the national post service that they will no longer sort parcels starting next year.
Next month, adults in their 50s, schoolteachers and high school seniors will get their vaccines in preparation for face-to-face classes. According to a June 3-9 survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, the majority of teachers, parents and students view in-person attendance positively (66%).
5.82 million cases, 110,991 deaths
On Wednesday June 16, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex reported significant improvements in the country’s pandemic data and began relaxing COVID-19 precautions across the country. Castex reported that the 11 pm curfew was to be lifted on Sunday, June 20, 10 days before its original expiration on June 30. The prime minister said that “although this curfew measure met a need to accompany the end of the third wave, the very good results recorded no longer justify it.” Compulsory outdoor face mask-wearing will end on June 17.
Nearly eight in ten (77%) approved of Castex’s decision to ease restrictions. Overall, France maintains an optimistic attitude towards its return to safety, and French citizens are becoming gradually less concerned for their health. A June 17 poll revealed that only 36 percent of the population are presently concerned about their personal health—down 17 percentage points from six months ago—while 52 percent worry about their relative’s health (down 21 percentage points from six months ago). A majority of citizens remain concerned about France’s national safety, as 60 percent of citizens express concern about the health situation of the country.
French Health Minister Oliver Véran reported that beginning Tuesday, June 15, the country would begin vaccinations for children under 18. Seven in ten (72%) of the French population believes that this decision to open vaccinations to young people is a good decision. A majority of parents of teenagers (57%) intend to have their children vaccinated.
French citizens have responded positively to Macron and Castex’s efforts to expedite the country’s re-opening process. Presently, a majority (54%) of French people hold a favorable view of President Emmanuel Macron’s health plan. This is a considerable shift in opinion from last month, when only 36 percent of French said the same. If Macron can continue to safely relax COVID-19 precautions, he will put himself in a strong position for the upcoming fall elections.
18.05 million cases, 504,717 deaths
Frustration with the Brazilian government mounted this week as the country passed the 500,000-death milestone. Brazil’s death toll is second only to that of the United States, and with only 12 percent of Brazilians fully vaccinated, that number will likely continue to climb in the coming months.
In most of Brazil’s 26 states, ICU bed occupancy is at or above 80 percent, signaling a serious strain on the country’s healthcare systems. Experts worry that the start of winter in the Southern Hemisphere this week will accelerate rates of COVID-19 infection in Brazil. Also of concern is the severe drought currently gripping Brazil—the worst the country has faced in over 90 years. Healthcare professionals worry that the fire season expected to follow the drought will overwhelm the healthcare system. Smoke from these fires could also aggravate cases of COVID-19 by causing inflammation in the lungs of patients.
On Saturday, there were widespread protests across Brazil as people expressed their disapproval of President Jair Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Specifically, protesters spoke out against Bolsonaro’s delays in procuring vaccine doses and his propensity for backing unproven medical treatments such as hydroxychloroquine. Public dissatisfaction with Brazil’s medical system predates the pandemic. A Pew Research Center Poll conducted between October 2019 and March 2020 found that the majority of Brazilians (63%) saw their country’s medical treatments as below average compared to those offered in other countries.
This week the Copa America soccer tournament also continues in Brazil. When Argentina withdrew as a host due to a surge in coronavirus infections, Brazil stepped in to host the tournament despite the fact that two thirds (64%) of Brazilians opposed the decision. So far, 82 people connected to the tournament have tested positive for COVID-19.
Bolsonaro’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic could cost him in next October’s presidential election. In the June 7-10 round of the XP-Ipespe survey, 50% of Brazilians express a bad or terrible opinion of the federal government. A May 11-12 poll from Datafolha finds that former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro’s likely opponent in 2022, would win by a wide margin if the election were conducted today.