Czech lack of trust in government undermines fight against COVID-19 epidemic

Czech lack of trust in government undermines fight against COVID-19 epidemic
Little more than half of Czechs said they would get tested if needed.
By bne IntelliNews February 12, 2021

A total of 45% of Czechs see the coronavirus pandemic as coordinated media hype, influenced by secret organizations, and only 18% of Czechs think of the disease as high-risk, according to a survey conducted by the WHO, the German University of Erfurt and the Czech Medical Association of J.E. Purkyne, published on February 10, online reported

76% of Czechs do not trust the government, and 66% do not trust the Ministry of Health to stop the COVID-19 epidemic, while doctors, health institutions and the public broadcaster came out as the most trusted institutions

“A large percentage of people believe that political decisions are influenced by secret organizations and that politicians often do not tell the truth,” said Zdenek Kucera from the Institute for Health Literacy, quoted by PragueMorning. 

The survey demonstrates the problems the Czech government faces in trying to convince people to behave in a way that will stop the pandemic spreading. After a relatively successful effort in the face of the first wave of the coronavirus, the country now has one of the worst infection rates in the European Union. Part of the problem is an ingrained suspicion of government, heightened by corruption scandals, together with a vibrant online misinformation culture.

According to the head of the WHO Office in Czechia, Srdan Matic, the WHO survey data show a significant split within Czech society in their approach to the pandemic.

“I think what comes out as striking in the results is that while people have a relatively high knowledge about the pandemic and the [associated] threats; their perception of the threat to themselves is relatively low,” he said,  Radio Prague International reported. 

40% of Czechs think that the emergency restrictions placed by the government are unnecessary and invasive to their personal lives. 44% say they are not afraid of the coronavirus and 25% of the respondents said that they have not been respecting any preventive measures in place. 

“Almost half of the people, 46%, did not stay at home and are still going out with COVID symptoms. These are more often people who think they are prone to infection but expect a mild course. In Czech society, there is a large proportion of those who prefer personal freedom over others, which proves to be very disadvantageous during a pandemic,” said Helena Hnilicova from the Faculty of Medicine at the Charles University. 

42% of Czech citizens visit their family members, despite the current recommendation by the government to limit their family encounters. 

More than 50% of people would get tested if needed, as “they consider it as a civic duty and believe that it will help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Alena Steflova from the Czech Medical Society Jan Purkyne. Also, more than half of Czechs say they plan to get vaccinated.