The Center for Social and Humanitarian Aspects of Regional Studies (CSGARD) of Sumy State University researched during November-December 2020 within the Initiative for the Development of Think Tanks in Ukraine. The International Renaissance Foundation implemented the research in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE) with the Swedish Embassy’s financial support in Ukraine.
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the position of the Swedish Embassy in Ukraine, the International Renaissance Foundation, and the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).
The analysis employed both qualitative and quantitative strategies. The study was carried out in two stages. Field data collection took place from November 30 to December 18, 2020, i.e., before the New Year and lockdown.
At the first stage, four focus group interviews were held among Kyiv, Sumy, Mykolaiv, and Zakarpattia regions, a total of 48 people aged 16-70. Moreover, focus group interviews were conducted separately among respondents who had Covid-19 and respondents who were not sick or did not know whether they were ill or not. At the second stage, an anonymous survey of 1,703 respondents took place to represent the adult population of Ukraine aged 18 and older except for living in areas temporarily not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities – Crimea, some of Donetsk and Luhansk regions’ districts. The error of representativeness of the study with a probability of 0.95: does not exceed 4%.
Quota sampling. Quotas by sex, age, region, size of the settlement. Respondents were randomly selected in four clusters of Ukraine: Western, Central, Southern, and North-Eastern.
The CSGARD employees processed questionnaires using the OSA program.
Based on the processing and analysis of the information obtained, we made the following generalizations and conclusions.
According to the findings, we can state the beginning of collective immunity formation because 21.8% of respondents claim to have already had COVID-19, and 28.5% cannot provide an unambiguous answer. Therefore, in the absence of mass testing of the population, it can be assumed that within the second group of respondents – “unsure ones” there is a part of the people who had a mild or moderate form of the disease but did not seek medical help or take tests.
The biggest fears associated with the pandemic are the risk of not receiving proper medical care due to diseases not related to Covid-19 (78% of respondents); to get sick themselves (77% of respondents), and worries about their relatives/loved ones as to the threat of complications from Covid-19 (82%) or death (69%). Men tend to ignore the risks of infection. They are less conscious and treat their health less responsibly. Also, young people assess the danger of dying from the consequences of COVID-19 significantly lower than older people.
Respondents identified the critical reasons for fears and concerns about the threat of contracting Covid-19: interaction with people due to the need to work (54.4%),
сontacts with people due to the need to make purchases and payments (43.7%), lack of protective masks in others (31.8%).
Also, the reasons for the increased risk of infection are quite significant due to: cohabitation with parents/children/grandchildren (26.3%); many people around do not keep their distance in public places (23.8%); crowded public transport (23.1%).
The crucial reasons for fears and concerns about the threat of Covid-19 complications are lack of understanding of how the body reacts to the virus (54%), the unpredictability of the disease (43%), and weak immunity (26%).
The reasons for fears and anxieties about the threat of death are the unpredictability of the disease (44.6%), inadequate level of medical services (39.9%), lack of drugs for COVID-19 (38.3%), and the impossibility of hospitalization due to the overcrowding of medical institutions (29.9%).
The pandemic alert dynamics from March to December 2020 changed from severe anxiety throughout the entire quarantine period to the adaptation to the threat. Some respondents note that the tension was great at first, but later it decreased because they got used to it (31.2%). For others, the level of anxiety did not change because they were equally worried throughout the entire period (29.9%). There is also a part of the people who did not take the threat seriously at first, but now they are terrified (19.7%). Thus, in the formation of the habit to live in permanent anxiety, the population, on the one hand, is tired to comply with quarantine restrictions and thereby underestimates the disease threat for themselves. On the other hand – it experiences psychological stress and anxiety due to worry for relatives and themselves.
The respondents claim to possess a lot of information about Covid-19 though contradictory and unreliable (38.6%). The rest of the population considers that there is enough information easy to find (36.1%). The most common sources of information retrieval about the disease/treatment are the Internet and social networks (57.7%), traditional media (television/radio/newspapers) (45.6%), relatives/acquaintances who had the disease (37.1%). The least frequently people approach a family doctor for information (17.7%).
The population lacks information about: medicines and facilities capable of providing real protection (39.6%); treatment of mild form (32.8%); rehabilitation (32.3%); treatment of severe form (29.2%); disease protection and prevention (28.1%) and the algorithm for seeking medical assistance (28%).
The population does not trust the official information about the number of infected and disease severity (42.1%), and another 40% are not sure whether to trust. As long as we understand the importance of compliance with medical restrictions on quarantine, we consider it unworthy to ignore the social indicators of mistrust among people and their tendency to paternalistic behavior and expectations of the authorities’ decisions.
Ukrainians agree with: the need to be in public buildings and constructions, public transport in personal protective equipment that covers the nose and mouth (92.6%); to keep a physical distance between individuals no less than 1.5 meters (91,3%); observance of self-isolation (85.2%). However, they are reluctant to agree with: the requirement to travel in public transport only in seats (83.4% agree); the rejection of mass events with the participation of more than 20 people (80.7% agree), and the need to abandon the mass celebration of New Year and Christmas holidays (73% agree).
A part of the population disagrees with the day off quarantine (55.8% agree) and with strict quarantine (44.6% agree).
After recovery, citizens are prone to rely on the established virus antibodies and experience less fear of infection, which can entail risky behavior. This circumstance may negatively affect the observance of restrictive measures among the people who have had Covid-19. The latter can refuse to use personal protective equipment and keep a physical distance.
The main reasons for violating quarantine restrictions by the people around are: the need to earn money (56.9%), quarantine complicates the situation of people (46.2%), irresponsibility of others (47.2%), lack of people’s awareness of the threat (34.8%); misunderstanding of the logic in such restrictions (27.8%) and examples of quarantine violations by others (21.2%). The population’s attitude towards further adherence to quarantine is relatively high. Still, quite often, this readiness is conditioned by the expectation of the same behavior from others, which may testify an attempt to delegate or share responsibility for the consequences of violations. Therefore, initially, there appeared a guideline to recognize the insufficient effectiveness of the authorities’ steps to contain the pandemic as a whole and the inability of quarantine restrictions to become a decisive factor in this containment. At the same time, people are ready to make certain concessions and constraints, but quite often, they admit the possibility of violating quarantine “according to the situation.”
Personal reasons for non-compliance with quarantine are the nature of work, which requires moving and contacting people (41.5%), stress from isolation, it is difficult to stay at home (14%), distrust of quarantine effectiveness (14%). Thus, the population is aware of the threat of contracting Covid-19, but the need to earn money is more updated. Therefore, under the conditions of improper organization of anti-epidemic measures in institutions and enterprises, in public places, and transport, mainly to ensure the avoidance of close physical contact, the situation with the disease remains acute.
The population is prone to react with restraint to quarantine violations by others. In particular, people merely move aside from danger (54.3%) or do not respond in any way (18.1%), which may imply people’s unwillingness to have a public dialogue, relevant today. A small number of Ukrainians react to violators, in particular, by making remarks to them (24.7%).