A turning point: support for Covid measures in Belgium is shrinking

A turning point: support for Covid measures in Belgium is shrinking
© Belga

Support for coronavirus measures and mandatory vaccination is dwindling in Belgium, and six in ten vaccinated parents say they will not get their children vaccinated.

The latest results from the Corona Motivation Barometer from University of Ghent professor Maarten Vansteenkiste, who also sits on the GEMS advisory board, highlight a turning point after nearly two years of the pandemic, reports De Standaard.

One reason for a shrinking willingness to comply with current Covid-19 restrictions is the new Omicron variant, which is less pathogenic – especially for those who have been fully vaccinated – despite being more infectious.

“Hospitals are not seeing an influx of patients, and intensive care units are emptying out,” Vansteenkiste told De Standaard. “It is the first time that the parameters of risk awareness, infectiousness and pathogenicity have diverged so much.”

Less likely to wear masks, socially distance

The survey carried out between 7 and 17 January among 11,919 participants, including 8,574 vaccinated people, shows motivation to follow corona measures at a low point.

Only 39% of vaccinated people reported feelings strongly motivated, compared to just 7% of the non-vaccinated. Even basic measures such as the mandatory wearing of masks, maximum ventilation, social distancing and disinfecting surfaces are followed less often.

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Frustration is growing about the socially-restrictive measures, especially among young adults, and the unvaccinated are feeling increasingly excluded from society.

“The figures highlight the growing tensions and even polarisation between the two groups in our society,” reads the report. The group of people who believe the virus should be allowed to circulate in order to build up group immunity is growing.

Trust in government rapidly disappearing

These frustrations also translate into low confidence in the politicians setting the rules: only 33% of the vaccinated say they have “much confidence” in the expertise of the government. Among unvaccinated people this is only 3%. Trust in experts remains considerably higher in both groups.

For some of the citizens, the declining motivation and trust in the pursued policy turns into outright rejection. When asked about their willingness to participate in a possible protest march against the policy, 60% of the unvaccinated appear to be considering it, as well as 12% of the vaccinated.

While many Belgians have had or plan to get a third dose of a vaccine – the so-called “booster shot” – only a little over half (51%) of those surveyed were in favour of making vaccination mandatory.

In previous surveys, this figure was closer to 60%. But now that vaccines are considered less effective and the virus less risky, according to the barometer, 31% of vaccinated people reject mandatory vaccination altogether.

In August last year this was only 16%.

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