Following the discovery of COVID-19 (previously known as 2019-nCoV) in December, the coronavirus has afflicted more than 75,000 people and claimed more than 2,000 lives in 30 territories to date. Hence, it comes as no surprise that people in Asia Pacific consider the virus a major threat.

According to a new YouGov international study conducted among 27,000 people in 23 countries and regions (including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia), the majority of people in APAC (58% to 77%) considered the virus a major threat to public health in their country (with Australia an exception at 37%).

Unsurprisingly, 77% of people in China - the country at the epicentre of the outbreak - considered it to be a major threat, with a further 69% branding it a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.

Interestingly, even though Indonesia has yet to report a local case of the virus, 72% of Indonesians viewed it as a major threat to public health in their country and 84% saw it as a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.

Rounding up the top five countries that feel the most threatened were:

  • Hong Kong: 71% found it a major threat to public health in their country; 68% saw it as a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.
  • Thailand: 71% found it a major threat to public health in their country; 79% saw it as a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.
  • Taiwan: 63% found it a major threat to public health in their country; 71% saw it as a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.
In Singapore, 58% found COVID-19 to be a major threat to public health in their country and 69% viewed it as a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.

While in Malaysia, 62% felt it was a major threat to public health in their country and 74% thought it was a major threat to public health anywhere in the world.

Generally, people in Asian and Middle Eastern nations are substantially more likely to feel threatened by the disease than Europeans and Americans. In the nine European countries surveyed, these figures range only from 7% to 28%, while in the USA it stands at 27%.

 

The survey also revealed, despite the Asia Pacific region being the most heavily afflicted, levels of familiarity with the ailment varies a great deal.

Filipinos were the most aware of the virus, with 68% saying they are “very familiar” with it and a further 28% feeling “somewhat familiar”.

People in China reported less familiarity with the virus - 43% said they are “very familiar” and 44% said they are “somewhat familiar” with the COVID-19.

Rounding up the top five countries with the most familiarity with the coronavirus were:

  • Malaysia: 43% said they are “very familiar” and 44% said they are “somewhat familiar”
  • Singapore: 33% said they are “very familiar”and 53% said they are “somewhat familiar”
  • Indonesia: 56% said they are “very familiar”and 29% said they are “somewhat familiar”
Again, despite having no reported cases locally, Indonesia had the second highest percentage of people feeling "very familiar" with the new disease.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Thailand, where only 27% reported being "very familiar" with the ailment, and a further 32% "somewhat familiar".

In Hong Kong, only 21% and 55% respectively feel "very familiar" and "somewhat familiar".

In general, people in Europe and the US report lower levels of familiarity with COVID-19, and those in the Middle East report higher levels. Only 18% of Americans are “very familiar” with the disease, and about half (46%) are “somewhat familiar.”


100,000 Malaysians could be laid off if COVID-19 threat continues till end 2020

In related news, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) predicted that if the coronavirus outbreak persists until the end of 2020, twice the number of people could be retrenched this year, compared to last year (40,000).

Speaking exclusively to theSun, MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said: "Many companies have been impacted, some to the extent of having their business revenue reduced by 50% compared with what they normally earn.

“If the situation persists, the retrenchment figure can reach as high as 100,000, which is more than double in 2019. This is something that really needs to be looked at."

Many industry players in Malaysia have claimed to have taken a hit since the outbreak, forcing the Malaysian government to come up with an economic stimulus package to mitigate the impact. The package will be announced later this month (27 February).

Shamsuddin said businesses related to the tourism and manufacturing sector, particularly those that rely on the Chinese market, could be most affected.

“Already, hotel operators are talking about thousands of booking cancellations. Hotels, restaurants, airlines and retailers, they are the ones that will very much feel the pinch,“ he said.

Infographics/ YouGov Lead image / iStock