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Canadians divided over whether to let pandemic disrupt Halloween, holidays: Poll

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Canadians are divided about whether to let the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt their plans for upcoming holidays and seasonal events, a new poll suggests.

The poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, comes as COVID-19 cases are surging and public health authorities are pleading with Canadians in places with rising case counts to avoid contact with anyone outside their immediate families or at least to stick to small social circles.

The results suggest that message is only partially getting through.

Respondents with children who went door to door for Halloween last year were closely divided on whether to let them go trick-or-treating again this year, with 52% saying they won’t and 48% saying they will.

The poll found sharp regional variations, however. About two-thirds of respondents in Atlantic Canada, which has been relatively untouched by COVID-19’s resurgence, said they will let their kids go out. In harder-hit Ontario and Quebec, two-thirds said they won’t.

Those kids who do go trick-or-treating will find slimmer pickings, with 49% of respondents nationwide saying they won’t open their doors this year to hand out candy.

Again, Atlantic Canadians were more likely to say they’d give out treats; in Ontario and Quebec, trick-or-treaters seem set for sparse pickings. In Ontario, 24% of respondents said they’ll give out treats. In Quebec, just 13%.

Respondents were also divided about celebrating Thanksgiving this coming weekend, with 40% of respondents saying the pandemic is causing them to change their plans _ and an equal percentage saying it is not. Another 20% said they don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving in any event.

As for the Christmas holiday season, 49% said they’ll change their plans, 44% said they won’t. Another 8% said they don’t usually celebrate that holiday.

Those who intend to change their plans were asked to describe how. They were allowed to give multiple answers: 74% said they’ll celebrate with close or immediate family members to keep their social interactions to a minimum, 54% said they’ll limit celebrations to a smaller number of visitors, 40% plan to issue strict instructions against kissing, hugging or handshaking, and 37% plan to avoid air travel.

Meanwhile, 30% said they’ll hold virtual celebrations and 25% said they won’t attend religious services or celebrations they would otherwise have gone to. Nineteen% said they plan to cancel celebrations altogether.

The online poll of 1,523 adult Canadians was conducted Oct. 2 to 4. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Almost three-quarters of respondents – 72% – said Canada has already entered the second wave of the pandemic, up 10 points since just last week.

There was less division over how governments should respond to the second wave of the deadly coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

In fact, 53% said high-risk businesses and activities should be shut down while others should remain open for the time being. Another 28% said as many businesses as possible should be kept open while we see how the second wave progresses, while 14% favoured a near-total lockdown similar to that imposed last spring.

Fully 85% said they’d support shutting down bars, nightclubs and casinos, while 74% would support shutting down movie theatres and all amateur sports, including school sports.

And, 67% would back shutting down places of worship, 61% interprovincial travel, 52% schools and universities, 52% visits to long-term or personal care homes, 47% parks and playgrounds, 46% restaurants and offices, 44% shopping malls and 33% retail stores.