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27 March 2020

HSRC commences public survey to assess awareness of Covid-19 among South Africans

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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Pretoria, Friday 27 March 2020 – The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) today announced that it would launch its public survey to better understand what the South African public knows about Covid-19, state of readiness to deal with this global pandemic and how they feel about it.

The survey comes within the context of a rapidly rising infection rate amongst South Africans necessitating a declaration of a state of disaster and national lockdown effective midnight on Thursday 26 March 2020 to help control the spread of the virus.

How will the study be done?

The study will consist of two parts. 

One will use the #datafree Moya Messaging social media platform to gather data from approximately four million members while the second part will include qualitative interviews with participants using the telephone, video platforms or through an internet-based questionnaire.

Due to the urgency of the situation, the survey will employ a Rapid Assessment and Response (RAR) approach.

Quantitative social media study

The Moya Messaging community includes participants from all genders, age categories, employment status as well as income groups.

The audience profile is 53% female, about with an LSM between 6-10.  Almost 92% of the audience earns below R 15 000 per month.

About 87% of the audience  are credit active, 20% are public servants while 99.5% are South African citizens.

The Moya Messaging service has a significant number of community members who are older and who represent diverse demographic profiles.

Speaking about the survey, Professor Priscilla Reddy, study leader and Deputy Executive Director of the HSRC’s Social Aspect of Public Health programme says “Social science has demonstrated its potential to help save lives, humanise epidemic responses, and mitigate the disruptive socio-economic and psychosocial burdens associated with outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics. In light of the global outbreak of the coronavirus, we need to understand more about this virus, how it affects people, how it is perceived, and the impact it has on the lives of people.  Understanding these elements of the virus will help us to develop accurate and effective messaging to change behaviours, attitudes and perceptions which will help control the spread of the virus.”

“We are appealing to all South Africans to participate in this survey. The research team is adopting the BiNu Moya Messaging Platform as the launch vehicle for this survey.  Participation is however open to all South Africans who have access to the internet or smart device. It really is as easy as clicking on the link provided and completing the questions on a voluntary basis.  It does not cost anything and will not require data since it is on a data free platform.  The survey is completely anonymous  and takes about 10 minutes to complete online.”

“As a way of mitigating the spread of the infection, the HSRC supports the call from government to South Africans to #StayAtHome and to maintain social distancing.”

“Information at this early stage is critical to ensuring South Africa moves through this moment and comes out better on the other end. We appeal to all South Africans to share the links widely and complete the survey as clearly as they can. It will only take a few minutes yet your contribution will be invaluable to shaping how South Africa, and perhaps other countries, respond to this virus and its effects on people,” concluded Professor Reddy.

Questions will, amongst others, include:

  • Have you heard of the coronavirus? What does it mean to you?
  • How is the coronavirus spread?
  • Who do you think is most likely to get the coronavirus?
  • Do you have any experiences with the coronavirus?  Is so how do you know feel about the person who was infected?
  • What are you doing to protect yourself from being infected with the coronavirus?
  • What worries you the most about the coronavirus?
  • If you were to be infected with the coronavirus, do you know what to do?
  • How are people with coronavirus or those thought  to have coronavirus treated in your community?
  • Do you think that the public is  being given all the information about the coronavirus?
  • In you view do you think the government is doing enough to combat the spread of the infection?

The full set of questions for the quantitative survey will be field tested within a pilot process. These results will be used to adapt and modify the questions for better efficiency and effectiveness of the longer-term study.

The survey is expected to run for 3-4 weeks following which the results will be made available to identified stakeholders, the media and community members.

To participate in the study, please click on the link below:

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