Study: Estonians understand necessity of restrictions

Coronavirus testing in Viljandi.
Coronavirus testing in Viljandi. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

A survey carried out by the Estonian National Institute for Health Development among residents of Estonia shows that the respondents are well informed about COVID-19, deem important to curb the spread of the virus and adhere to the guidelines provided by the state.

The purpose of the survey conducted in mid-April was to map out people's awareness, attitudes and behaviors in the emergency situation caused by the novel coronavirus.

"We were happy to observe that people are keeping a close eye on information channels and wish to contribute to curbing the spread of the virus. People's attitudes with regard to restrictions are supportive -- they are trying to prevent contact with other people and are making an effort to ensure hand hygiene; however, it also appeared that over half of the respondents are more stressed out or anxious than usually," Sigrid Vorobjov, head of the Center for Prevention of Drug Addition and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute for Health Development, said.

Survey results also showed differences in the perceived level of danger posed by COVID-19. The prevalent opinion, held by 86 percent of the respondents, was that the coronavirus is dangerous or very dangerous. The perceived level of threat was highest among women, the elderly and people with higher education.

Over 50 percent of the respondents had self-isolated at home, with the practice being reported more among people over 65. The majority of respondents opined that the 2+2 rule imposed on moving in public spaces was warranted, the share of people in favor of the restriction increased in older age groups. 

"This shows that the message urging the elderly to prevent contacts has reached its target group, and the latter attaches great importance to it," Vorobjov said.

"Considering the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the severe course of the illness, is is also important that in addition to changes in behavioral patterns, people also deem testing important -- an estimated three percent of Estonia's adult population has been tested for the novel coronavirus, and approximately one percent, or some 10,000 people, may have contracted the virus since March," Vorobjov said.

The majority of respondents, 92 percent, said that the information they have received about the coronavirus has been sufficient.

The age group 65-76 was best informed about the virus as 93 percent of the male respondents and 96 of the female respondents in this segment said that they have received enough information about the disease.

The biggest shortages in information were reported with regard to how to treat the virus and where one can be tested for COVID-19. Close to one-tenth of the respondents would like more information on how to behave when they start exhibiting symptoms and on ways in which the disease is transmitted. Participants in the survey also said that they would like to learn more about whether or not recovering from the disease provides immunity and what the possible complications of the infection are.

Online news portals and newspapers were used most frequently for receiving coronavirus-related information. The Estonian-language channels of public broadcaster ERR proved most popular, including its TV, radio and social media channels as well as official information channels, such as the website of the Health Board, the webpage and the 1247 information hotline. The said channels were also popular with residents whose first language is not Estonian. Russian-speaking residents also get a large share of their information from the PBK TV channel and Russian TV, radio and online news portals.

Over 86 percent of the respondents deemed the coronavirus either dangerous or very dangerous. This position was held more widely among women, the elderly and people with higher education. Among non-ethnic Estonians, the perceived threat was somewhat lower than among residents whose first language is Estonian.

In order to prevent contracting the coronavirus, 98 percent of people regularly wash their hands with soap and 89 percent disinfect their hands. Respondents also said they are not attending events and gathering and are keeping a distance of at least two meters from other people, particularly those exhibiting virus symptoms. 38 percent said that they are also wearing masks; however, doing so is complicated by the poor availability thereof.

Close to three quarters of the respondents, or 74 percent, said that the measures introduced in Estonia to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are sufficient. While there were also those who deemed the restrictions too lax, particularly in the age group 18-29, every 14th respondent, on the other hand, opined that the rules are too strict.

The majority of participants in the survey said that the 2+2 movement restriction is warranted, and the share of respondents in favor of the measure increased from 85 percent among respondents aged 18-29 to 97 percent among those aged 65 and older.

Slightly over half of the people, or 53 percent, remained in home isolation at the time when the survey was being carried out. Among respondents aged 65 and over, 72 percent of women and 62 percent of men avoided contact with other people. The corresponding figures among people aged 18-29 were 66 and 57 percent.

The results of the survey help assess the epidemiological situation in Estonia. The survey was carried out among a random representative sample, the invitation to participate in the poll was emailed to 12,000 residents of Estonia aged 18-79. Participants in the survey carried out from April 9-19 numbered 4,606.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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