In 2020, Uruguay was hailed for its success in combatting coronavirus through widespread testing and strict isolation policies. However, in June 2021, the nation reached an all-time peak of COVID-19 cases, recording the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the world at several points. In light of this recent history, the latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies examines how Uruguayans now feel about the coronavirus pandemic and returning to daily life.
With respect to the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, there is remarkable optimism amongst the Uruguayan public, with three-quarters (74%) of respondents saying that the worst is behind them. Just 10% instead believe the worst is yet to come, and 17% don’t know.
Younger voters are the most optimistic, with 79% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 80% of 25-to-34-year-olds agreeing that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. Nevertheless, large proportions of those aged 45 to 54 (69%) and 55 and above (71%) also share this view.
Such optimism is reflected in favourable public opinion regarding the Uruguayan Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with 59% saying that the Government is currently taking the right measures to address the pandemic. A quarter (26%) thinks the Government is not taking the right measures, and 16% don’t know. Opinion is largely consistent across age groups, with disagreement driven by those who voted for the Frente Amplio in the first round of the 2019 General Election, of whom just 28% think the Government is taking the right measures.
Looking specifically at how Uruguayans feel going about daily activities in light of the pandemic, 64% say they would feel safe going outside of their house, but a notable quarter (27%) would feel unsafe leaving their home at all. A further 75% of employed respondents say they would feel safe going to work, compared to 22% who would feel unsafe. Interestingly, women (27%) are more likely to feel unsafe going to work than men (17%).
Similarly, 70% of respondents say they would feel safe shopping for groceries, against 26% who would feel unsafe. Those aged 55 and above are most hesitant here, with a third (32%) saying they would feel unsafe, in comparison to 17% of 18-to-24-year-olds.
These figures show that when it comes to the often unavoidable tasks of daily life, a clear majority of Uruguayans feel safe. However, far fewer say they would feel safe using public transport: just 31% say they would feel safe, against 60% who say they would feel unsafe. We again see a gender divide here, with two-thirds (66%) of women saying they would feel unsafe, compared to 53% of men.
Uruguayans are divided on how they would feel visiting a hospital for things other than coronavirus. Almost half (48%) say they would feel unsafe, whereas 43% say they would feel safe visiting a hospital. Again, women are more hesitant, with a majority of 55% saying they would feel unsafe, against 40% of men.
When it comes to recreational activities, Uruguayans largely express feelings of safety. A majority (53%) would feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub inside, compared to 37% who would feel unsafe. This figure rises to 63% for those who would feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub outside, against 26% who would feel unsafe. In both scenarios, those aged 55 and above are the least likely to say they feel safe: just 44% say they would feel safe at a restaurant or pub indoors, and 57% outside.
Further, 60% of respondents would feel safe visiting a friend’s house and 58% would feel safe greeting a friend with a handshake, against 31% and 32%, respectively, who would feel unsafe.
Concerning travel, 60% say they would feel safe travelling to another region of Uruguay, while 29% would feel unsafe. This large proportion of respondents who say they would feel safe is largely driven by younger Uruguayans, with 71% of those aged 18 to 24—compared to 50% of those aged 45 to 54—saying they would feel safe.
However, responses differ when asked about international travel: 62% would feel unsafe travelling to another country, and just 23% would feel safe, suggesting that for many Uruguayans, holidays abroad will not be a part of life in the near future.
Overall, there are considerable levels of optimism about the future of the pandemic amongst the Uruguayan public, with a majority of Uruguayans saying they would feel safe doing many of the activities that once defined ‘normal’ daily life. These widespread feelings of safety are largely driven by younger respondents, who are significantly more likely to feel safe doing a variety of recreational activities than their older counterparts. Even when these generational differences are considered, the mood of Uruguayans where the coronavirus pandemic is concerned appears largely confident, reflected in their positive appraisal of both the timeline of coronavirus and the Uruguayan Government’s handling of the pandemic.