Covid-19: Will the pandemic ever end and how will we know?

There is no consensus on what would signal the end of the pandemic. In most of the 33 countries surveyed, the majority don’t expect it’ll happen any time soon.

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Public Affairs, US
  • Catherine Morris Public Affairs, US
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A new Ipsos survey finds no national consensus in any of 33 countries on what specific event would signal the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in almost every country surveyed, a majority of adults expect that they won’t be able to return to something like their normal pre-COVID life before at least six more months.

The survey of more than 22,000 adults conducted in October and November, before the discovery of the omicron variant, on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform finds the public divided on what would be the best indicator that the pandemic is ending and that major restrictions can be lifted in their country.

On average across the 33 countries, 20% say it’ll be when at least 75% of the population have been vaccinated, 19% say it’ll be when transmission of the virus has completely stopped, and 17% say it is when hospitals have had normal operations without staffing or equipment shortages for at least one month. In addition, 12% say it’ll be when there are fewer than 10 new cases for every million people per day and 7% say it’ll be when there are fewer than two deaths for every million people per week. And tellingly, 14% say they just don’t know. Meanwhile, 8% say the pandemic has already come to an end.

Opinions on what would mark the end of the pandemic also differ widely within each of the 33 countries. None of the proposed signals is selected as the best indicator by a majority of those surveyed (or even 40%) in any country.

However, certain views are more prevalent in some countries than in others and among certain demographic groups. This is the case of:

  • A 75% vaccination rate in Peru, Turkey, Switzerland, Colombia, Romania, Argentina, and India, and globally among those with a higher level of education
  • The complete stop of the virus transmission in China and Italy
  • Hospitals operating normally for at least one month in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Singapore
  • Less than 10 new cases per million people per day in Singapore
  • “Don’t know” in France, Canada, the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, and globally among those with a lower level of education (primary or secondary only) and those with a lower income level
  • “The pandemic has already stopped” in Saudi Arabia, China, Hungary, and Malaysia

The diversity of opinions and the prevalence of some of them underline the varying levels of success different countries have had in containing the virus and in rolling out vaccines. They also reflect differing attitudes toward the virus and vaccine seen within and across countries.

Most believe that a full return to normal is still elusive

On average, two-thirds of the public across the 33 countries surveyed expect that a return to something like their normal pre-COVID life is still more than six months away – if it ever happens. Only 14% say their life has already returned to normal while 20% expect it will be the case within the next six months.

While there is a wide range of expectations about when life will return to pre-COVID normal within most countries, prevailing attitudes differ greatly across countries, reflecting differences in experience dealing with the virus and in governmental policy.

People living in Brazil, Denmark, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden are significantly more likely than others to say that their life has already returned to normal (between one quarter and one-third of them do vs. one in seven on average globally).

At the other end of the spectrum, pessimism is especially prevalent in people in Hungary and Russia where 30% and 24%, respectively, believe their life will never return to a pre-COVID normal (vs. a global country average of 14%).

These are the results of a 33-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,023 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 27 other markets between Friday, October 22 and Friday, November 5, 2021.
The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Public Affairs, US
  • Catherine Morris Public Affairs, US