Survey: People's sense of danger grew steeply at end of February

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A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center. Source: PERH

The COVID-19 related sense of danger in the people of Estonia grew steeply at the end of February, along with the wish to get vaccinated against the virus and for the restrictions to be made tougher, the results of a recent survey commissioned by the Government Office and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS show.

"Three quarters of the Estonian population see the present situation as critical and find that incorrect behavior may mean an increase in the spread of the virus. This is a very big change compared with the beginning of February, when this was the stance of only half of the participants in the survey," Karin Reivart, survey manager at Turu-uuringute AS, said.

"Two weeks ago one-third of the Estonian population believed that the acute crisis is over, but we must still maintain vigilance, last week only 8 percent subscribed to that stance," Reivart said.

The situation is perceived as critical specifically by the older people, as in the age group of 75 and above such opinion was voiced by 97 percent. The ratio is lowest among 15 to 49-year-olds, of whom approximately 65 percent consider the situation to be critical.

Even though the sense of danger grew significantly in both main ethnic groups -- by 21 percent among Estonians and by 24 percent among people of other ethnic backgrounds - the sense of danger continued to be significantly higher among Estonians than among people of other ethnic backgrounds, with 82 percent of Estonians and 58 percent of people of other ethnic backgrounds considering the situation critical last week.

The ratio of those who believe that there has been an overreaction on the part of the authorities is only 7 percent among Estonians, compared with 19 percent in the group of people with different ethnic backgrounds. 

"People's attitudes towards the measures imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus have changed steeply. The ratio of those who wish the restrictions to be toughened is unprecedentedly high," Reivart said.

At the beginning of February only 10 percent of respondents believed that existing measures should be definitely toughened. By the end of the month, the ratio of such responses had almost tripled to 28 percent, on top of which there are 34 percent of respondents who rather support toughening of the restrictions.

"This is the highest ratio of expectation of a toughening of measures since the start of the coronavirus crisis. In total over 60 percent of respondents want the anti-virus measures to be toughened, while relaxing of the measures is supported by just 13 percent of respondents," Reivart observed.

The current measures were considered to be sufficient by just 20 percent of the people at the end of last month, which is less than half the ratio seen at the beginning of the month. At the same time, the number of those who wish the measures to be toughened doubled.

Support grew remarkably for restrictions concerning entertainment establishments, events and travel, which over half of the Estonian population recommends to be definitely continued. Almost 90 percent of the population in total sees these restrictions as necessary.

As the sense of danger has grown, people's desire to get vaccinated has also risen. In total, approximately 70 percent of respondents have, in their own words, either been vaccinated already, which ratio stands at 8 percent, or are ready to get vaccinated, who make up 61 percent. The ratio of such people was 65 percent at the beginning of the month. 

The increase was highest among the non-Estonian speaking population - from 47 percent of those vaccinated and 3 percent of those who are prepared to be vaccinated at the beginning of the month to respectively 50 percent and 5 percent at the end of the month. The ratio of those who would definitely get a vaccination grew from 32 percent at the beginning of January to 37 percent at the end of February. Those definitely not wishing to get a vaccination make up 13 percent.

"Gradually but steadily growing interest in vaccination is a development that is in line with expectations," psychologist Andero Uusberg, member of the government's COVID-19 scientific advisory council, said. "The greater numbers of people vaccinated in Estonia, the more people see with their own eyes what side effects come or don't come with vaccination and what a sense of relief vaccination gives to a person," he said.

At the same time, people's fear of becoming infected with coronavirus has not changed significantly compared with previous surveys and stays at 70 percent. The fear to contract the virus without one's knowledge is higher among older residents and lower in younger age groups. 

Ninety percent of residents believe they are informed in general or well informed about the measures to contain the spread of the virus. The ratio of those who knowingly and regularly seek out information about the virus, as they consider the topic important, has grown to 56 percent.

Ninety percent of the respondents say that they observe all or most of the official guidelines  issued for the prevention of the spread of the virus. This ratio has remained unchanged since mid-December. The ratio of those who observe the guidelines in all possible cases is 85 percent among older people and between 60 and 70 percent among younger respondents. Of 15 to 24-year-olds, 29 percent observe most of the guidelines.

The survey was commissioned by the Government Office and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS. The 24th wave of the survey was conducted between February 26 and 28.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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