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Many believe Covid-19 is exaggerated and declining, says survey

23 October 2020 - 06:00 By nomahlubi sonjica
Participants in a survey believe Covid-19 is exaggerated and that the virus has declined.
Participants in a survey believe Covid-19 is exaggerated and that the virus has declined.
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

A new survey has revealed that there has been growing pandemic “fatigue” and complacency since lockdown rules were relaxed.

There has also been a reduced compliance with health measures among members of the public, thereby increasing the risk of exposure to Covid-19.

This is according to a survey conducted by the University of Johannesburg's (UJ's) centre for social change, in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which was done between July and September among almost 8,000 respondents.

It was conducted through an online survey on the data-free Moya Messenger app, which has two million active users.

The key findings were:

  • Four in ten adults believe the threat of the coronavirus is exaggerated;
  • During the hard lockdown, in April, about a third (31%-33%) believed that the threat posed by the pandemic had been overstated. By September, this had grown to 41%;
  • One in three adults do not always wear a mask when leaving home;
  • In early April only 37% wore a mask when they went out. This rose to just over 70% in July, August and September. Among the other 30% of adults, 20% said that they wear a mask “most of the time” and about 7%, “some of the time”. Only 2% revealed that they never (or not often) wear a mask and 1% did not want to say; and
  • Fear of Covid-19 is declining.

According to the survey, frequent feelings of fear remained at a consistently high level from April through July, ranging between 44 % and 47%.

“However, this fell to 31% during August and early September. While nonetheless high, this is a considerable decline and is of importance when considering parallel changes in risk perception measures,” UJ said.

Respondents displayed their declining trust in President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“While our findings show that 65% of adults believe that the president is doing a good job in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, this has declined by 20 percentage points from our round one survey findings during level 5 lockdown. This is important as there is strong evidence to suggest that trust in government has an important bearing on general compliance with public health measures.

“These and other findings combined point to ‘pandemic fatigue’. This is important to take note of as any premature reduction in preventive behaviours poses a significant challenge in our ability to combat the virus,” said the institution.