Wednesday , 12 August 2020
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The soft release of the booklet ‘K(NO)W COVID-19’ at the hands of Mahesh Pai, Larissa Rodrigues, and Carolyn Cardoso

COVID-19: A fact check

The Goa College of Home Science (Human Development Specialisation) recently conducted a survey to determine the knowledge level and attitudes toward COVID-19 among Goans

ANNA FERNANDES | NT KURIOCITY

The rapid and extensive spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has become a major cause of concern. With mitigation measures imposed in the state, flattening the curve wholly depends on the cooperation of the public and the knowledge, attitudes and practices they hold toward the coronavirus. And thus, with an aim to ascertain the extent of knowledge about COVID-19 among the Goan populace, a survey was conducted by the Goa College of Home Science (Human Development Specialisation).

“When the lockdown was unexpectedly enforced, WhatsApp was flooded with all kinds of claims and messages about COVID-19 ranging from it being bio-terrorism to a secret government ploy and other theories. Contradictory information about how COVID-19 would spread, and messages about diets to improve immunity and all sorts of things were doing the rounds,” says assistant professor of human development, Larissa Rodrigues who along with Third Year Bachelor of Home Science (honours) student, Carolyn Cardoso conceptualised the idea of holding a survey to “find out what people really knew”.

“People across the world are relying on a wide variety of online sources and media platforms to consume news and information about COVID-19. But with the information overload that is surrounding this topic, distinguishing facts from fiction has become especially challenging. As the virus spreads, so does fake news,” adds Cardoso. The duo thus reasoned that conducting a survey would provide a tentative picture of whether people were aware of and able to distinguish accurate information from fake news and false claims.

After researching extensively, the duo drew up a survey of multiple choice questions, true and false statements and two open ended queries and designed them into a Google form template and circulated the same on WhatsApp.

At the end of the week they received about 180 completed questionnaires. “We did consider that most of the people who answered the survey were from educated backgrounds, and hence were likely to have a good knowledge base. Hence, if misconceptions existed even in this population, it would justify some sort of intervention, especially for less educated groups who did not have access to a smart phone,” says Rodrigues.

The survey indicated a few knowledge gaps and myths that were prevalent as well as revealed some areas in which queries and doubts existed. Rodrigues cites the lack of information in the hands of people, who cannot afford smart phones and those who believe word-of-mouth information, as one of the reasons for this. Concurrently, she adds, information overload from various sources leads to difficulties in verifying and distinguishing between real and fake news.

And despite scientific evidence, the survey found that some members of society were of the opinion that following age-old cultural practices would grant them protection from the disease. “Garlic and turmeric are good for health and do boost immunity but just eating garlic and turmeric doesn’t make you immune to disease or COVID-19 overnight. There are so many other issues in play here. Drinking hot water or gargling with a mouthwash as is a regular habit for some, will still not prevent a person from contracting COVID-19, but will reduce the chances,” Rodrigues adds. Further, the lack of short and concise information from verified sources is another reason for knowledge gaps. “Much of the sources we looked at had more or less medical and technical information and much in detail, so it didn’t make easy reading,” she says.

As an outcome of the research, a short booklet titled ‘K(NO)W COVID-19’ was compiled to clarify the doubts that existed in people’s minds. The booklet was edited by health officer, Primary Health Center, Candolim, Roshan Nazareth and informally released online by principal of Goa College of Home Science, Mahesh Pai.

(The findings of the study can be accessed on the Goa College of Home Science’s Instagram page.)

RESEARCH FINDINGS

 The study took into account inputs from 180 respondents residing in various parts of the state. 61 per cent of the respondents were female while 39 per cent were male.

 Almost all respondents knew that washing hands well, avoiding touching their face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and staying away from close contact with people would go a long way in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

 Only around 28 per cent of the respondents knew that the death rate due to COVID-19 was between two to five per cent in most countries. Around seven percent of the respondents thought that only older adults could get infected and die of COVID-19. An approximate of six per cent of respondents believed that a vaccine was already available at the time of the study. Around 53 per cent thought that gargling with a mouthwash or rinsing your mouth with saline water (21 per cent) could prevent them from getting COVID-19. About 21 per cent believed that if you ate garlic, it would help prevent you from contracting COVID-19.

 Around 10 per cent thought that COVID-19 could be prevented by taking antibiotics while 14 per cent believed you could get vaccinated against pneumonia and through this decrease your chances of getting COVID-19.

 Around 35 per cent believed that staying in hot temperate climates would prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 Around 98 per cent knew of the common symptoms to look out for as cough, fever, and shortness of breath. People were less aware of other possible accompanying symptoms like digestive tract problems.

 In addition, if they suspected themselves to be COVID-positive, 53 per cent of people stated they would call an ambulance to take them to the hospital, 18 per cent believed they should stay home and call their family doctor, while 22 per cent stated that they should rest more than usual and call the doctor only if they felt worse in two-three days.

 An approximate of 24 per cent believed that it was extremely likely that COVID-19 was a bio-weapon unleashed by a terrorist or corrupt government organisation. Most people felt the government should carry on with the lockdown and other preventive and screening measures that were being done, but also take special cognizance of repatriating or looking after the poor and the migrant workers who were facing a sorry state due to the sudden imposition of the lockdowns.

 More than 80 per cent of people said they prefer to get news about COVID-19 from official websites and news channels and publications rather than social networking sites and apps. While only two per cent of people said they would look at the WHO website.

 A majority indicated that they want the government to be transparent about revealing the status of COVID-19 infections and deaths and were in doubt that the government was under-reporting the numbers.

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