Cape Town - South Africans are more concerned about the economic impact of the Covid-19 epidemic than the disease itself, with many saying they would not seek health care if needed even if it was not virus related.
According to the results of a Statistics SA survey, 38.8% of respondents said that they would not seek health care if needed while Covid-19 is a threat.
Stellenbosch University Professor Ronelle Burger said: “The most concerning statistics here is the high levels of fear about using medical facilities for non-Covid-19 reasons.”
As an expert on the social impact of global pandemics and associated precautionary measures, she fears that avoidance of medical facilities by South Africans during the Covid-19 pandemic “is a massive problem that may hit as deep as the disease itself”.
“This is a worry because in previous outbreaks like ebola in the DRC we have seen that not accessing medical facilities due to the ebola crisis ended up killing more than twice as many people as the disease itself (due to missed vaccinations). There are already some indications in SA that HIV patients visits and vaccinations have been lower than expected.”
The survey, Behavioural and Health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, revealed that 88.2% of those interviewed were concerned about the overload of the health system.
At the same time 93.2% were very concerned or extremely concerned about the possible economic collapse of the country due to the pandemic.
StatsSA said: “Respondents were mostly worried about the possible economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 virus; 88,9% were concerned about the health of vulnerable people like elderly family members; 88,2% were concerned about the overload of the health system and 79,7% were concerned about the civil disorder that may result as a consequence of the pandemic.”
“The majority of respondents said that they obtained their information on current public health measures from news outlets. Information on current public health measures such as washing of hands, how to practise social distancing, etc, was obtained in this manner by 52.4% of respondents; 64.3% of respondents obtained information on Covid-19 using news outlets. Social media (including Facebook, Instagram and others) was the second-most frequently used means of obtaining information on both current public health measures as well as Covid-19 (14,1% and 16,0%, respectively).”
Almost two-thirds (62.3%) of respondents indicated that they had stocked up before the lockdown. About 64% of respondents living on farms, 63,3% living in suburbs and 58.6% living in townships had stocked up on essential goods between the announcement of the lockdown and before the start of it.
“The largest proportion (49%) of participants in the survey indicated their race as white; 36% indicated that they associated themselves as belonging to the black African group and 8% and 6% classified themselves as belonging to the coloured and Indian/Asian groups, respectively.”
On the reports sampling, StatsSA said: “The study has certain limitations. The survey is based on a non-probability, convenience sample, and people who had access to technology...”