Koreans believe they will unlikely get the new coronavirus, but, if infected, it will deal a severe blow to their health and economy, a recent survey has found.
The survey, conducted by the Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health led by Professor Yoo Myoung-soon, asked questions to 1,000 Koreans to see how the public perceives the new coronavirus.
Only 12.7 percent of the respondents said that the virus could infect them. However, 73.8 percent responded that if they are infected, it will cause severe damage to their health and finance.
Most of the surveyed people were influenced by the new coronavirus in their daily lives, with only 10.2 percent of respondents saying it has not affected their lives.
Asked about what the respondents were most afraid of the new coronavirus, the fear of being stigmatized came first recording 3.2 points out of the total 5, followed by being infected by an asymptomatic patient with 3.17 points, and suspected patients not reporting their symptoms with 3.1 points.
Watching media reports about the new coronavirus, most of the pollees said they felt anxious (60.4 percent), fearful (16.7 percent), shocked (10.9 percent), and angry (6.7 percent).
In the survey conducted by the team conducted after the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), respondents mostly felt anxious (73.2 percent), fearful (34.6 percent), shocked (28.6 percent), and angry (23.7 percent).
More than nine in 10 people, or 91.6 percent, said the new coronavirus reminded them of the past MERS outbreak.
Asked whether they believed the new coronavirus would be more deadly than MERS, 49.3 percent of the respondents answered “yes,” while 20.5 percent of the respondents answered “no.”
"The survey also showed that there had been a perception that the new coronavirus will infect more people, last longer, and cause more harm to society than MERS," the team said. "Even though the mortality rate of the new coronavirus is not as high as that of MERS, the result showed the overwhelmingly negative perception of the society toward the spread of the new coronavirus."
Regarding the treatment of infected patients, 53.8 percent of the respondents responded that the government is doing a good job in treating patients, while only 16.7 percent of the respondents showed negative responses.
Participants' remarks on the government's quarantine efforts also showed similar results, with 41.1 percent of the respondents answering that the government is doing well, compared to the 25.3 percent who did not think so.
However, many of the respondents felt that the government is not responding well to questions from the press and international diplomatic mediation as only 23 and 27 percent of the respondents answered that they believed that the government is doing an excellent job in such areas.
Regarding the government's decision to evacuate residents in Wuhan, 72.7 percent of the respondents supported it, and 87.1 percent of respondents agreed that the evacuees need to be quarantined in a specific area.
"Although it has been less than two weeks after the country confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, the spread of infections is rapidly shaking people's daily lives," the team said. "The survey shows that psychological response is as important as an epidemiological response against an outbreak."
Korea can have a successful psychological response if people have a reasonable judgment about the status of the infectious disease, collective efficacy to solve the situation, mature civil behavior and social trust, and effective crisis communication between governments, experts, the media and civil society, the pollsters added.