UNICEF: Only 40% of the population of the Kyrgyz Republic is aware of the need of respecting physical distance to avoid spreading COVID-19

BISHKEK, March 1, 2021 – The “Assessment of COVID-19 experience and perception by population of Kyrgyzstan” was conducted in the framework of Sakta National Communication Campaign launched by the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic last September, with support from the UN system and other development partners, for the prevention of COVID‐19 contamination. 

This research, commissioned by UNICEF, is aimed at analyzing data to better shape the response to COVID-19, including perceived severity of COVID-19; perceived risk of contracting COVID -19; awareness about measures to prevent the spreading of COVID -19; and extent of awareness about COVID -19 symptoms. It aims at identifying factors that consciously or subconsciously influence attitudes and behaviors related to COVID-19, such as risk perception and adherence to prevention measures.

Data collection was done through phone survey method in November 2020. 1,000 people were interviewed from all seven provinces of Kyrgyzstan and two main cities - Bishkek and Osh. 

The survey demonstrated a fairly high perception about the severity of contracting COVID-19 by the population. 72% of the respondents assessed the seriousness of infection, in case of contracting it, as severe (31% - as moderately severe, 41% - as extremely severe). However, significant differences in the perceived severity level are observed depending on age group. The share of young people aged 18-29 who assess the disease as severe was 65%, while in older age groups (50 years and older) it rises to 82%. 

In terms of the perceived risk of contracting COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan, 57% of the population estimates that the probability of infection is likely. Important geographical differences were identified in relation to this question: while 74% of the population of Osh City find it likely, only 43% of Batken population were of the same opinion.

The survey also exposed significant gaps in the knowledge of measures that should be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While 82% are aware that handwashing is an important protection measure and 77% know about the use of masks, only 40% mentioned physical distance.

“While the survey shows that the majority of the population is aware of the severity of COVID-19, it also demonstrates the necessity to continue raising public awareness on measures to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, many people are still not conscious of the need to respect physical distancing. UNICEF will further support the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic in the framework of the Sakta Campaign to disseminate accurate information on COVID-19 in the public and foster adherence to safety measures,” says Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan. 

Regarding the knowledge of symptoms, 98% of respondents know at least one symptom related to COVID-19, mostly increased body temperature, but only half of the population is aware of dry cough, and fewer are aware of the rest of symptoms. Important differences are noted according to region. While in Bishkek 73% of the population mention loss of smell and taste, only 18% do in in Talas.

UNICEF will continue supporting the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing essential supplies to support those working on the frontlines of the response, as well as supporting the overall welfare of every woman, child and family. In addition, UNICEF is committed to supporting the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic with the response to COVID-19 through the global COVAX facility. Together with the Ministry of Health and GAVI, UNICEF is working on a supply chain sizing tool and demand generation workplan to ensure the country is ready to receive and disseminate WHO prequalified COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by WHO.

Full survey can be accessed here

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