South Africa - Cape Town - 170320. Keeping your phone sanitized is another smart way to keep germs off your fingertips. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers your phone a “high-touch surface,” which could make it a carrier of the virus. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

How much do South Africans know about Covid-19?

CAPE TOWN- South Africa has been in lockdown for over three weeks and all of us in some way or another have been affected by Covid-19, but how good is our general level of knowledge about the virus?

Surveying company Consulta asked more than 1 000 South Africans who are part of its online research community some questions regarding the Covid-19 outbreak.

The survey took place between 6 – 10 April 2020. Respondents were able to select more than one option per question.

South Africa’s general level of knowledge about the virus:

  • 4 out of every 5 respondents believe they have sufficient knowledge about the Covid-19 pandemic to keep themselves safe.
  • The most prominent sources of information include TV (67%), Government websites (50%), the World Health Organisation website (48%), social media (46%), radio (37%) and newspapers/online news websites (35%).
  • The fact that social media is such a popular source of information gives credence to concerns about the spread of fake news and people acting in ways that are not conducive to the effective management of the situation.
  • Participants indicated that transfer of the virus takes place via coughing, sneezing or touching (96%) and not airborne transmission (36%), pets (2%) and bug bites (2%).
  • The incubation period is anything between 3 to 14 days (91%) and symptoms include shortness of breath (95%), fever (90%), a dry cough (88%) and a sore throat (84%).
  • Respondents indicated that the best ways to prevent the spread include washing and disinfecting your hands (100%), not touching your face with unwashed hands (99%), avoiding close contact with others (97%).

When asked specific details, respondents indicated the following (% indicates those that indicate ‘yes’):

  • Does cold weather and snow kill the coronavirus: 2%
  • People of all ages can be infected by the coronavirus: 98%
  • Coronavirus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates: 73%
  • Eating fresh garlic can help prevent infection with the coronavirus: 13%
  • The coronavirus only affects old people:  3%
  • Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating the coronavirus: 8%
  • The virus is just a mutated form of the common cold: 22%
  • You can have the coronavirus and show no symptoms: 90%
  • There is a cure / medication / vaccine to treat the coronavirus: 5%

Project Director at Consulta Charlene van Niekerk says that she remains encouraged to see how hopeful South Africans are about the situation.

“Dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude is certainly unchartered territory for South Africans, and in fact the world – we cannot recall in history that the entire world economy, world of work, healthcare systems and social structures have all simultaneously faced such an unprecedented black swan event in modern times,” said van Niekerk.

An encouraging outcome of the survey is that South Africans are aware of the disparities in the country’s socioeconomics and the disproportionate negative impact on vulnerable communities.

“We are all being challenged during this time, but we have proven time and again that we can do incredible things when stand together and look a common enemy in the eye,” she said.


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