35% would attend important event even if unwell: ST survey

People walk along Pagoda Street, on Feb 13, 2020.
People walk along Pagoda Street, on Feb 13, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Despite 81 per cent of Singapore residents fearing coronavirus infection, nearly 35 per cent said they would continue to attend an important event even if they had developed mild symptoms earlier that day.

These were just two of the findings of a survey commissioned by The Straits Times and carried out by market research company Nexus Link from Feb 8 to 10, immediately after the Health Ministry raised the Republic's disease outbreak response to "orange" on Feb 7.

The door-to-door survey of 401 households here, representing Singapore's various dwelling types, age groups, ethnicity and gender distribution, was aimed at understanding the public's perception of and response to the virus outbreak.

The survey found that 85.9 per cent of women were afraid of getting infected, while a smaller proportion - 75.5 per cent - of men felt the same way.

More women said they had stockpiled medical supplies and groceries. They were also more likely to wear masks outdoors despite not being unwell. Men were more likely to feel they were prepared for the outbreak.

Despite the authorities' advice for those who are unwell to stay at home, 34.9 per cent of respondents said they would attend an important event, such as a meeting, wedding or exam, even if they had developed symptoms such as a sore throat or slight cough in the morning.

A large proportion of this group were younger, with 62.5 per cent of those aged 15 to 29 saying they would continue to attend the event. In contrast, only 35.2 per cent of those aged 30 to 49, and 27.1 per cent of those aged 50 and above, said they would do so.

"Many still ignore the Government's advice to stay indoors if they are not well. The focus should be on the younger group, which seems to be oblivious to the perils of the virus infection," said Nexus Link's chief methodologist, Dr Jack Loo.

Younger people were also less likely to say that the outbreak had made them afraid in general, with only half saying this was the case.

On the other hand, 67.6 per cent of those aged 30 to 49 and 76.3 per cent of those aged 50 and above said the current situation made them fearful.

These two groups were also more likely to stay indoors more because of the outbreak, with 58 per cent of those aged 30 to 49 and 50.8 per cent of those aged 50 and above saying that this was the case for them.

Only 31.3 per cent of those aged 15 to 29 said they were doing so.

A majority of respondents - 68.6 per cent - said they would avoid areas a confirmed case had visited.

 
 
 

Only 31.2 per cent said they would advise others on public transport to wear a mask or seek medical help if they looked sickly.

Those married with children under the age of 13 were the most likely to do this, with 41.6 per cent saying they would encourage such social responsibility. Only 32.9 per cent of singles, and 22.6 per cent of those married with no pre-teen children, said they would do the same.

Most respondents obtained their information about the outbreak here from television (69.8 per cent), social media (66.1 per cent) and messaging applications (59.9 per cent). This was followed by newspapers (49.1 per cent) and the Health Ministry's website (43.1 per cent).

Finally, 80.8 per cent said they were confident in the Government's ability to handle the outbreak.

Dr Loo said: "Given the extensive measures the Government has put in place to contain the community spread... Singaporeans acknowledge and appreciate the level of preparation for the outbreak.

"The high level of transparency exemplified by the Government over the past few weeks has also translated into higher levels of trust in the Government."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2020, with the headline '35% would attend important event even if unwell: ST survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe