Across the continent, less than half the people interviewed about the deadly COVID-19 pandemic believed they faced the risk of contracting the virus.
More than 60% believed that COVID-19 could be prevented by drinking lemon or taking vitamin C. And just over 40% believed that Africans could not get COVID-19.
These are some of the findings from a report released by the Partnership for Evidence- Based Response to Covid-19 (PERC) Consortium. The consortium is made up of public health organizations such as the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention; Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies; the World Health Organization; the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team; and the World Economic Forum and private sector firms such as market research company, Ipsos.
The survey was conducted in March and April 28 cities across 20 AU Member States. It gathered real-time information about the dynamics of the pandemic, governments’ responses to it, and people’s perceptions of both, to help governments implement the best public health and social measures to contain the virus.
The findings of the report were discussed in a webinar hosted by the African Centre for Diseases Control and public strategy firm, Gatefield, to help journalists improve their reporting around the COVID-19 pandemic.
It particularly focussed on their reporting on the public health and social measures around the virus.
In Africa currently, there are 418 002 cases, 10 404 deaths, and close to 200 000 recoveries.
Dr. Emmanuel Agogo from Resolve to Save Lives said that even though Africa’s COVID-19 numbers have been lower than the rest of the world, it was important to identify the common trends, issues, and attitudes across the phases of the outbreak.
“Outbreaks and pandemics come in various phases. We need to keep vigilant. COVID-19 will hit rural areas and villages later than urban centers,” said Agogo. Resolve to Save Lives is an initiative that has been funded to look at the COVID-19 response.
The study found 4 in 5 respondents anticipated that COVID-19 would be a big problem in their states. But, their personal risk perception for contracting the virus was low.
In addition, about 73% thought that a hot climate prevented the spread of the virus and 61% believe that avoiding a person who has recovered from COVID-19 prevents them from getting it.
This was dangerous, said Agogo, because it meant they were less likely to follow public health measures advice because they did not think they would be affected.
Agogo advised journalists to focus on four lenses when they reported on the pandemic. These lenses are lives, livelihoods, liberties, and the long term. These were the lives that were affected, the impact on people’s livelihoods, the liberties of people as well as the long-term effects that it would have.
James Ayodele, Principal communicator at the Africa CDC said that the continent had adopted a continental operations strategy that hoped to conduct 10 million COVID-19 tests in Africa, deploy 1 million community health workers, train 100 000 health care workers by the end of 2020 and set up a procurement platform on the CDC’s site to help supply member states with the necessary health equipment.
An expert panel of journalists including Eromo Egbejule, Africa Editor, OZY; Joan Van Dyk, Senior Health Journalist, Bhekisisa; Dr. Mercy Korir, Medical Journalist, KTN News; and Aisha Salaudeen, Features Producer, CNN Africa, shared their experiences covering the pandemic at the event and advocated for more ethical and principled reporting.