Large segment of Czechs disregard recommended COVID-19 precautions, WHO survey shows

Photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml

Despite recommendations, 46 percent of Czechs with coronavirus symptoms choose to venture outside their homes, a new survey initiated by the World Health Organisation in Europe indicates. Close to a half believe that the pandemic is largely a media sensation. However, the number of people who would be willing to take a vaccine has grown substantially over the past three months.

The World Health Organisation, together with the University of Erfurt in Germany and several other institutions, including the Czech Medical Association of J. E. Purkyně, has conducted a wide ranging survey of public attitudes to the COVID-19 pandemic in 15 European states.

While comparative results are not yet available, the data for Czech respondents is. It was presented on Wednesday at an online press conference by Czech and WHO representatives.

Srdan Matic,  photo: archive of Srdan Matic

The head of the WHO Office in the Czech Republic, Srdan Matić, said that the data indicates a significant split within Czech society in regards to how they perceive the pandemic.

“I think what comes out as striking in the results is that while people have a relatively high knowledge about the pandemic and the [associated] threats; their perception of the threat to themselves is relatively low.”

Perhaps the most striking data in support of this conclusion is that nearly a half of respondents said that they choose to stay at home if they show coronavirus symptoms.

The data was presented by Dr. Helena Hnilicová from the 1. Medical Faculty of Charles University.

“[Those who do not maintain this measure] are usually people who think that they are not at high risk from the illness and expect only light symptoms. A large segment of Czech society puts personal freedom before the wellbeing of others. During the pandemic this is showing itself as very disadvantageous.”

Where Czechs are showing significant discipline is in the maintenance of what is known as the “Three Rs” in the Czech Republic – mask wearing, washing one’s hands and maintaining social distancing. Three-quarters or more of respondents said that they are very active in keeping to each one of these precautions.

Photo: ČTK/Josef Vostárek

The avoidance of social gatherings also scored as a big no among 78 percent of those who took part in the survey. However, 42 percent of respondents said that they do not respect these measures when it comes to friends and family members.

Doctors, health institutions and public broadcaster came out as the most trusted institutions, according to the survey. Nevertheless, even in this regard there was a sizable minority that indicated they do not trust them. For example, 36 percent of respondents said that they have very little trust in the information they receive from the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, 45 percent said that they see the pandemic largely as a media sensation.

After comparing the three distinct time periods during which the data was gathered, Alena Šteflová from the Czech Health Ministry said that there is a growing willingness among Czechs to get vaccinated against the virus. The number rose from just 38 percent in November to more than half of the population in January.