This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

Govts, companies shifted COVID risk management responsibility to individuals: study

Researchers say organizations could have been more proactive in ‘owning’ responsibility

A new Canadian study has found that over the first five months of 2020, government and corporate approaches to COVID-19 went from taking decisive, collective action against the pandemic to emphasizing individual responsibility.

The researchers say that Canadian policymakers and firms should take more ownership of the challenge, but in the end, “it takes everyone to protect everyone.”

The study, titled “Passing the Buck vs. Sharing Responsibility: The Roles of Government, Firms and Consumers in Marketplace Risks during COVID-19,” is published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Its authors analyzed speeches and tweets by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, as well as tweets and emails from a handful of major corporations, from January to May.

They found the messaging went through three distinct phases, beginning with an “externalization” stage that lasted from the start of the year until early March, in which the virus was largely seen as a foreign problem.

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, researchers found the message shifted to one of “responsible organizations” — a phase characterized by daily policy announcements, states of emergency, and major shifts in the way corporations operated.

This lasted until mid-April, when researchers found the emphasis was increasingly placed on “responsible consumers.” This phase began “once organizations established the ceiling of their efforts and demanded consumers’ co-operation,” according to the study.

“It was more like, ‘do your job. Do your part. Help each other,’” Charles Cho, an accounting professor at York University and one of the study’s authors, said in an interview on Thursday.

“What we find in general is, we first externalize the situation, then we take control of the situation. Eventually, we sort of ask the consumers to co-operate to help mitigate the risk.”

The authors said the study’s aim is not to lay blame, noting “citizens must bear some of the burden of trying to contain the spread of the virus.”

However, Cho said, organizations could have been more proactive in “owning” responsibility.

“That owned responsibility was just there temporarily, and then it quickly shifted,” Cho said.

The study also found that governments and organizations failed to properly emphasize the interdependence of different groups, instead focusing on the risks to vulnerable populations such as seniors and health-care workers.

This “overemphasis” had one unintentional consequence, the study found: making young, healthy people underestimate their own risk of getting COVID-19 — as well as their role in spreading it.

That’s led to “failed responsibilization, transgressions, and reduced compliance to guidelines such as physical distancing and mask-wearing,” the study found.

Adam Burns, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
SUV collides with Kelowna transit bus

Five people were taken to hospital following the collision

Friends and family of Sonya Riome, 35, are confirming she died in the fire. (Submitted)
Woman dies in weekend Revelstoke house fire

The fire gutted the property

(Instagram/Matty Rebman)
Hit and run kills dog, severely injures West Kelowna man

The car was abandoned but police could not locate its driver

Administration offices for the Central Okanagan School District. (File photo)
Central Okanagan School District clarifies COVID-19 notification process

The district announced its first positive case of the virus at Kelowna Secondary School on Sunday

City of Kelowna snow removal crews are ready to jump into action. (File)
Snow removal on track despite early snowfall: City of Kelowna

Despite record-breaking snowfall in October, the city said there’s no concern it will go over its snow removal budget

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Apex Mountain Resort received 35 centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend, prompting some to head out for some early season turns. (Apex Mountain Resort / Facebook)
Stay off the mountain: Apex warns of early season dangers

Recreational use of the mountain before opening day comes with serious risks

Armstrong’s Christyna Whieldon is $1M richer after scoring a winning Lotto 6/49 ticket from the general store. (BCLC contributed)
Armstrong mom $1M richer after candy run

Christyna Whieldon bought a winning ticket from Armstrong’s general store

The Penticton Indian Band is opposing any hunting of local big horn sheep which are an at-risk population. (submitted photo)
Penticton Indian Band oppose big horn sheep hunts

Local big horn sheep are an at-risk population

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a vehicle that crashed into a Vernon home on 17th Street Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (City of Vernon photo)
Woman faces drunk driving charges after crashing Mustang into Vernon home

Vehicle occupants and one resident reported sustaining minor injuries in Sunday incident

Most Read