National Knowledge and Research Center for Emergency Readiness - Gesser-Edelsburg A., Cohen R., Hijazi R. and Abed Elhadi Shahbari N. (2020). Analysis of Public Perception of the Israeli Government’s Early Emergency Instructions Regarding COVID-19

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Gesser-Edelsburg A., Cohen R., Hijazi R. and Abed Elhadi Shahbari N. (2020). Analysis of Public Perception of the Israeli Government’s Early Emergency Instructions Regarding COVID-19

Bibliographic details:

Gesser-Edelsburg A, Cohen R, Hijazi R and Abed Elhadi Shahbari N, (2020). Analysis of Public Perception of the Israeli Government’s Early Emergency Instructions Regarding COVID-19: Online Survey Study. J Med Internet Res 2020;22(5):e19370

DOI: 10.2196/19370

PMID: 32392172

Abstract

Background: On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to be a pandemic. This posed challenges to many countries, prominent among which is communication with the public to gain their cooperation. Israel faces different challenges from other countries in its management of the COVID-19 crisis because it is in the midst of a deep constitutional crisis.

Objective: The objective of this paper was to examine the response of the Israeli public to the government’s emergency instructions regarding the pandemic in terms of correlations between overall risk perception and crisis management; overall risk perception and economic threat perception; crisis management and compliance with behavioral guidelines; and crisis management and economic threat perception. We also made comparisons between crisis management and spokesperson credibility and between crisis management and the credibility of information sources.

Methods: The sample was established using an online survey that enabled rapid and effective distribution of an online questionnaire during the COVID-19 crisis. The self-selection online survey method of nonprobability sampling was used to recruit participants (N=1056) through social network posts asking the general public (aged ≥18 years) to answer the survey.

Results: Participants aged ≥65 years perceived higher personal risk compared to those aged 18-30 years (mean difference 0.33, 95% CI 0.04-0.61) and those aged 46-64 years (mean difference 0.38, 95% CI 0.12-0.64). Significant correlations were found between overall risk perception and attitudes toward crisis management (r=0.19, P<.001), overall risk perception and economic threat perception (r=0.22, P<.001), attitudes toward crisis management and compliance with behavioral guidelines (r=0.15, P<.001), and attitudes toward crisis management and economic threat perception (r=–0.15, P<.001). Participants who perceived that the prime minister was the most credible spokesperson evaluated the crisis management significantly higher than all other groups. The crisis management was evaluated significantly lower by participants who stated that infectious disease specialists were the most credible spokespersons. Participants for whom the Ministry of Health website was the most credible source of information evaluated the crisis management higher than all other groups. Participants for whom scientific articles were the most credible source of information evaluated the crisis management lower than those who perceived that the WHO/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites or Ministry of Health/hospital websites and health care workers were the most credible.

Conclusions: The higher the public trust and evaluation of crisis management, the greater the compliance of the public with guidelines. It was also found that crisis management and information cannot be approached in the same way for the overall public. Furthermore, unlike other epidemics, the COVID-19 crisis has widespread economic and social consequences; therefore, it is impossible to focus only on health risks without communicating economic and social risks as well.

Website: https://www.jmir.org/2020/5/e19370/