People willing to conceal COVID-19

The remarkable work being done by Australians to keep the coronavirus under control risks being undone, after the early results from a Monash University survey showed there was a significant portion of the population willing to conceal COVID-19-like symptoms.

It has become extremely important to change the culture of ‘soldiering on’ when sick but, even at the highest levels, we have seen this can be a hard habit to break, after treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s coughing fit in parliament last week.

The new survey revealed that people would happily try to conceal symptoms from their employers, co-workers, family and friends.

Preliminary analysis of more than 1500 responses of the online survey indicates that 24 per cent of respondents are likely to conceal a cough from people at their place of work, 13 per cent are likely to conceal a fever, 50 per cent to conceal sneezing and 65 per cent diarrhoea.

Monash University’s Professor Terry Haines launched the survey last month to uncover who was most likely to conceal common symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough and fever, as well as unrelated symptoms such as sneezing and diarrhoea.

“One in four survey respondents are indicating that they would be unlikely or extremely unlikely to notify relevant people at their place of work if they develop a cough,” Prof. Haines said.

“This number drops to one in eight if the symptom developed is a fever, however, this still represents a concerning number of people who may be undertaking work while ill and not notifying their employer, family or friends,” he said.

Surprisingly, people in more insecure modes of employment, such as casual workers, are not more likely to conceal their illness than those in permanent employment with access to sick leave. 

When compared to respondents who work in other sectors, results have shown that healthcare workers are setting the example for everyone, with respondents showing 40 per cent lower odds of concealing a cough or fever symptoms from relevant people at their place of work.

Prof. Haines said that as Australia begins to loosen its social distancing restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of re-emergence of the virus remains ever present.

It is crucial to the health of Australia and each individual returning to work to play their part in restricting the spread of the COVID-19 by staying home when sick, he said.

“We don’t know who could contract COVID-19 next,” he said. “So, we need to have a mindset that everyone we deal with at work is a potential patient or has a close contact at home who could become one.

“We have a responsibility to show care for those people. It is okay to let people at work know that you are not okay, regardless of whether you are a casual employee, a volunteer, a CEO, or a prime minister.”

The survey is ongoing and covers a number of topics related to COVID-19 such as the sources of information that have influenced decisions, such as social media platforms, people’s understanding of social distancing and isolation, and the Australian government COVIDSafe app.

Researchers are keen for more older adults to participate in the survey, to help them understand differences in views across the community.

To participate in the survey, please click here.

Are you worried about people in the community concealing COVID-19 symptoms?

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Written by Ben

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