Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, releasing the outcome of the second part of the Human Sciences Research Council's public perception survey on the impact of the coronavirus on South Africans. Picture: GCIS
Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, releasing the outcome of the second part of the Human Sciences Research Council's public perception survey on the impact of the coronavirus on South Africans. Picture: GCIS

Majority of South Africans complying with lockdown regulations, study finds

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Apr 26, 2020

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A study on Covid-19 indicates that most South Africans are complying with the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande said on Sunday.

The survey by the Human Sciences Research Council was conducted to measure the impact and awareness of the coronavirus among South Africans.

The survey comes amidst the unprecedented spread of the virus across the world, which necessitated that South Africa implement a strict lockdown from March 27 to April 30 to impede the spread of the virus and the rate of infection.

The survey was conducted in two waves. The first, conducted from March 27-31, looked primarily at awareness levels and knowledge about the virus. 

The second, which had 19 330 participants and was conducted from 9 to 16 April, looked primarily at the impact of the lockdown on South Africa.

Key findings of the study include that the majority of people adhered to the regulations. The results show that 99% either left their homes for food, medicine and social grants or stayed at home. 

Thirty percent had not left home since the start of lockdown and 62% had left to get food and/or medicine.

Other findings include:

* Contact with people during the lockdown: Only 20% of the respondents indicated that they had not left home, 8% had met with more than 50 people. Fifty-one percent of people reported that they came into close contact with 10 or more people during the past 7 days when out of their homes. Fifteen percent had to use public transport to get to the shops.

* Risk perception: One in 2 people indicated a sense of security and so they perceived themselves to be at low risk; only 1 in 5 people believed that they are at high risk of infection.

* Access to food: Just under a quarter (24%) of residents had no money to buy food. More than half (55%) of informal settlement residents had no money for food. About two-thirds of residents from townships also had no money for food.

* Access to chronic medication: Approximately 13.2% of the population indicated that their chronic medication was inaccessible during the lockdown. Approximately 13 to 25%  of those living in informal settlements, rural (traditional tribal areas) and farms indicated their chronic medications were not easily accessible. 

* Financial impact of the lockdown: Between 45 and 63% of people reported that the lockdown would make it difficult to pay bills, debts, earn income, feed their families and keep their jobs. Additionally, 26% of people reported that they had no money for food.

* Access to alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown: Cigarettes (11.8%) were more accessible than alcohol (2.5%) during the lockdown. A quarter of people from informal settlements were able to buy cigarettes during lockdown.

* Experience with law enforcement: The overwhelming majority of residents (75%) had no interaction with law enforcement; 14.7%  of the residents indicated that they were treated badly

The survey was conducted on the #datafree Moya Messaging social media platform and reached 19 330 respondents. The Moyo Messaging platform was chosen because of its large user base of about 4 million members and 1 million daily engaged users.

The HSRC worked with a range of partners, including the University of KZN, SAPRIN (Agincourt), Walter Sisulu University, NIHSS and Acumen Media.

Why the survey? The report says that although the global community is learning about the virus and its behaviour on a daily basis, it has been shown that due to its highly infectious nature, the best way to protect oneself from infection is social distancing and the regular washing of hands and cleaning of surfaces.

"This will require behaviour and attitude changes. South Africa’s experiences with HIV and Aids as well as TB has shown that the most resilient behaviour changes will be built upon an evidence-based understanding of the diseases and what will be required in terms of behaviour, attitude and perception changes to turn the tide of the infection rate.

"The study therefore sought to mine data that will lead to context-specific health and well-being frameworks required to address individual, family, community and society at large at primary prevention, early detection and patient care levels, as well as long-term mitigation of the impact of the pandemic."

Nzimande said the research confirmed many conclusions that were already factored into South Africa’s Covid-19 response strategy, "but like all good social science research, it has help to quantify the extent of the challenge and provide a more nuanced way of understanding the challenge".

"This includes the issue of tobacco and alcohol access, which received considerable attention on social and mainstream media.

"Good social science research also helps to highlight areas that require greater attention by society as a collective. One such area that emerged during the research was access to chronic medication."


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