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Survey: Estonians understand the severity of the coronavirus situation

COVID-19 olukord

The Estonian populace recognises that the situation in the country is critical due to the extensive spread of COVID-19. 80% of Estonians support the measures established for the prevention of the spread of the virus and 55% are in favour of even stricter measures, according to a survey of Estonian residents conducted by Turu-uuringute AS in early March on behalf of the Government Office. 

‘The sense of danger has been increasing constantly since the beginning of February. If in early February only about a half of the populace considered the situation to be critical, then at the end of February the figure had risen to three quarters of all people, and now stands at four in five people,’ noted Karin Reivart, survey director at Turu-uuringute AS. ‘The criticality of the situation is also evidenced by the fact that, according to the survey, 73% of people are prepared to make a remark to another person nearby for failing to follow the established rules.

80% of Estonians support the stringent restrictions that came into force on March 11. ‘At the same time, there is continued support for the implementation of even tougher measures, although compared to late February, expectations for measures to be tightened have waned slightly,’ Karin Reivart observed. ‘A total of 55% of respondents would like the state to implement even stricter restrictions than are currently in force to prevent the spread of the virus. At the end of February, before the stricter restrictions that came into force on 11 March, as much as 64% of the population was in favour of tightening current restrictions.’

There is, however, a clear difference between age groups. 66% of people over 75 would like to see stricter measures, while among those aged 35 to 49 the figure is only 44%. The situation is similar in regards to the restrictions that came into force on 11 March: among the older segment of the population, support stands at 90%, while among 35- to 49-year-olds, it is 70%, which is nevertheless still a high figure.

Concurrently with the deterioration of the situation, people’s awareness of the measures in force has sharply improved. Currently, 61% of people believe that they are well informed about the measures – during the last two months, this figure stood at below 50%. Meanwhile, 33% of people are only broadly aware of the measures. Additionally, there has been an increase in the proportion of people who say they regularly seek out information on coronavirus-related matters because they consider it important. The share of people who are well informed about the measures is the greatest in Tallinn and other major cities, where the figure ranges from 65 to 67%. In rural settlements, however, there is a slightly higher than average proportion of those who consider themselves to be only broadly aware of the measures.

Along with this increased awareness of the restrictions, there is a greater willingness to comply with them. 80% of the populace say they follow all instructions and 13% say they follow most of them. At the end of last month, these two figures stood at, respectively, 72% and 18%. Women, Estonians, and the elderly continue to show a greater than average willingness to comply with the guidelines. Concerning regional differences, compliance with guidelines has improved in all regions except central Estonia. Compared to the end of February, mask usage (92%) and compliance with instructions to stay at home (currently 56%, previously 49%) have both increased. 

The number of people wishing to be vaccinated remains high: according to the latest survey, a total of 71% of the Estonian population are either already vaccinated or prepared to get vaccinated. Two weeks ago, this number was 69%. The survey also looked at how inclined people are to recommend vaccination to their friends and family. According to the results, 63% of people would be inclined to recommend vaccination to a friend or family member if they asked them for their advice. Meanwhile, 12% would not do it under any circumstances and 13% are leaning towards not recommending it.

In addition, respondents were asked which sources they trust the most in vaccination-related matters. Trust is greatest in Estonian doctors and researchers (e.g., the scientific council on COVID-19, the expert committee on immunoprophylaxis), who were listed by 55% of the respondents. Other highly trusted sources of information include family physicians, family nurses, and treating physicians (38%), state agencies, such as the Health Board and the State Agency of Medicines (30%), and the Estonian media (23%). While, on vaccination-related matters, older Estonians place greater than average trust in their family physician (67%) or the opinion of Estonian doctors and researchers (77%), young people do so for the websites of state agencies (41%) or scientific journals (24%). 

The respondents were further asked what the greatest source of stress is for them in connection with the spread of the coronavirus. Contraction of the coronavirus is currently feared most: by 65% of people. This is followed by concerns about the low availability of health care services, difficulties in undertaking recreation activities, and relationships with friends and family, which were listed as sources of distress by about 40–45% of the populace. Roughly a quarter of the respondents were worried about insufficient savings or losing their job – these were mentioned as causes of stress more frequently than average by Russian-speaking residents.

The survey was commissioned by the Government Office and conducted by Turu-uuringute AS. The 25th wave of the survey was conducted between 11 and 14 March 2021.

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