Study of the COVID-19 epidemic in Belarus (part 1, November 2020)

  • Assess the scale of the epidemic — obtain the most realistic figures on the total cases for the country as a whole and for each region.
  • Assess the effectiveness of using personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide recommendations.
  • Identify the attitude of the population to the epidemic, the measures to fight the infection, and the provision of medical help.
  • Clarify risk groups, the severity, and the duration of the illness for different population groups given their symptoms.
  • Identify outbreak areas.
  • Assess the scale of the epidemic, obtain the most realistic figures on the total cases for the country as a whole and each of the regions.

Methodology

Respondents

The survey was conducted from 6 to 18 November 2020.

  • citizens of countries other than Belarus;
  • people who do not reside in Belarus;
  • people under the age of 18, as there were too few of them to be grouped for analysis;
  • people with incomplete data on gender, age, region, type and place of residence and education;
  • people with incorrect or duplicate identifiers (the results used the form with the latest timestamp).

Processing of the results

25,500 responses were processed to obtain the estimates of the parameters of interest.

Morbidity statistics

We have estimated that as of 18 November, 8.4% of the adult population of Belarus is the most probable value for the share of adult Belarusians having had the disease with a confirmed diagnosis (95% credible interval — between 5.7% and 12.0%). This corresponds to around 635,000 people (95% credible interval — between 434,373 and 909,890). If we additionally take into account those who believe that they had been infected but did not receive an officially confirmed diagnosis (it is known that not everyone is allowed to take the test and that not everyone seeks medical help), then the most likely value is 1.9 million people (95% credible interval — between 1.6 and 2.3 million).

Epidemiology

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

How are Belarusians trying to protect themselves during the epidemic? Nationwide, people now wash their hands more often than before the epidemic (76% on average), use antiseptics (67% on average), wear masks or respirators in public places (54% on average). Besides, they try to limit contact with people (51% on average) and the use of public transport (40% on average). An average of about 23% of adult citizens wear a protective mask at all times. The most unpopular method of protection among adult citizens is always wearing a respirator. It is preferred by less than 5% of the country’s adults.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are fever, loss of smell (in approximately 70% of people), fatigue, muscle pain. However, most symptoms, except for fever, diarrhea, and dry cough, are more common in women. Interestingly, as age grows, the loss of smell becomes less common, whilst for older people it is more likely to experience fever and the loss of appetite.

Duration of the disease

Of those who have recovered, 43.5% had COVID-19 for a period of two weeks to a month. Nearly 30% recovered within two weeks, and just 5% were ill for less than a week. Generally, fewer than 2% of adult citizens were ill for more than two months. About 18% of all adult citizens who got sick have still not recovered as of 18 November.

Places of infection

The majority of adult citizens who have recovered, almost 45%, believe that they got infected at work. The second most common place the adult citizens believe they got infected in is home (family) — about 25%, while almost 20% are unsure where they got infected.

Medical help

Only 30% of people who have recovered are satisfied with the quality of medical help provided, the rest had to face a long waiting time for examinations and test results (about 28%), had to pay to obtain a diagnosis out of their pocket (about 19%), were refused the PCR test (14%), computer tomography (13 %) or antibody test (11%).

Fear of getting infected

If we compare the level of fear of coronavirus in the first and second waves, we see that on average the fear of being infected has remained at the same level: the higher the age, the smaller the share of those who have become less afraid and the larger the share of those who are just as afraid or have become more afraid. Women are afraid of getting infected more often than men.

Attitude to vaccination

The majority of the population (about 60% on average) are ready to get vaccinated if the vaccine is developed by a reliable pharmaceutical company, approved by the WHO, and has no serious side effects. On average just 4% of the population are ready to be vaccinated with a vaccine approved only by the Ministry of Health of Belarus.

Attitude towards the official position of the state on the situation with COVID-19

An absolute majority of the population does not trust the data reported by the Ministry of Health. Only a small part of adult citizens (up to 5%) consider the measures taken by the government to be sufficient. Most believe that they need to be seriously reconsidered:

  • On average 80% of the adult citizens would like to see an increase in the availability of COVID-19 testing for everyone.
  • On average 80% and 66% of the adult citizens want to see honest and detailed data on morbidity and mortality, respectively.
  • An average of 66% believe that wearing masks in public should be mandatory. The survey was conducted before the mandatory mask requirement was introduced.
  • An average of 62% would like to see more protection for the most vulnerable population groups.
  • An average of 60% believe that educational institutions need to switch to distance learning.
  • An average of 60% believe public awareness about issues surrounding COVID-19 needs to be raised.

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Narodny Opros

Народный Опрос — волонтерский проект для проведения независимых социсследований в Беларуси. https://narodny-opros.net/