COVID-19: is the threat exaggerated?

19 April 2024

Nearly half of respondents (45%) worldwide have some degree of confidence that the threat posed by COVID-19 during the pandemic has been exaggerated. One-third of respondents (33%) are of the opposite opinion. And 18% could not decide their position on this issue. However, when analysing the results, significant differences by country and macro-region were revealed. In particular, in Russia, more than a third (35%) of respondents are inclined to believe that the danger of the coronavirus has been exaggerated. More than a quarter (27%) of respondents disagree, and another 23% did not accept either position. 

These are the overall results of the global survey* ‘End of the Year’ (End of the Year) of the international association of research agencies Gallup International, conducted at the end of 2023 in 44 countries around the world. In Russia, the survey was conducted by ROMIR.

Data source: Gallup International and ROMIR, 2023

Despite the highest mortality rates, countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe are the most likely to agree that the threat from SOVID-19 has been exaggerated. For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina (75%), Kosovo (71%), Azerbaijan (68%), Romania (66%) and Georgia (65%) hold this view. 

The Middle East (47%) also shows high levels of agreement that the threat from COVID-19 has been exaggerated. In particular, in war-torn countries where there is a significant threat to life, respondents were more likely to say that the threat from the coronavirus had been exaggerated. This was the response in Afghanistan (62 per cent), Iraq (59 per cent) and Syria (57 per cent), for example.

There are significant differences of opinion among African countries: in Kenya, for example, more than half of respondents (59%) believe that the coronavirus threat has been exaggerated, while in Nigeria, only 32% of respondents hold this view. Nevertheless, against the backdrop of malaria epidemics and limited access to clean water and food, this position of respondents on the African continent is understandable. 

Conversely, countries in Western Europe, North America and Latin America were more likely to recognise the coronavirus threat as serious. These views were most common in Spain (61%), Mexico (57%), the UK (49%), Germany (48%), the USA (47%), Canada (47%) and Portugal (46%). All of these densely populated countries have high mortality rates and high numbers of confirmed cases. 

Data source: Gallup International and ROMIR, 2023.

Andrei Milekhin, President of ROMIR, Doctor of Sociological Sciences, comments on the survey results: ‘The first global isolation in human history during the spread of COVID-19 remains controversial in public opinion. Four years later, a majority of respondents in the developed world still believe that the coronavirus threat was and remains real, while an overwhelming number of others in the rest of the world hold the opposite view. The explanation for this is probably related to the strength of media propaganda in the Western world. In the Middle East, Africa and the global South, however, there are plenty of other problems besides the deadly COVID-19. 

The pandemic seems to be the last chord of globalisation according to the Western version, but the monocentricity of the world has long surrendered its position both politically and economically. And even a global epidemic could not unite countries and continents in a unanimous attitude to it. The world now, more than ever, needs new guidelines, preferably healthier ones.’


*In October-December 2023, the End of Year Project surveyed more than 40,000 people in 44 countries around the world. In each country, the surveys were conducted using national or urban samples. It is not possible to verify the quality of primary data collection for a number of countries. In Russia, the ROMIR research company interviewed 1,200 respondents using a nationally representative sample.

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