On Thursday, 5 March 2020, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of Covid-19 had tested positive.
This was South Africa’s first reported case – a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife and were part of a group of 10 people who had arrived back in South Africa on 1 March 2020.
For many, it seems like this news report took place years ago and that Covid-19 has been with the world for much, much longer.
Now, 21 months into the pandemic, 251 266 207 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 5 070 244 deaths, and 7 160 396 495 vaccine doses later on a global scale, many parts of the world remain in limbo and struggling to recover.
Following from Consulta’s first Covid-19 Insights report released in April 2020, the research house went back to market to get some insight into how South Africans are coping in terms of their work and home lives, their views on the handling of the Covid-19 lockdown by the government, and their employment and financial conditions.
The latest report by Consulta surveyed just under 1 000 South Africans who are part of its online research community between 24 July 2021 and 15 August 2021.
These are the key take-outs from the 2021 online survey results:
Views on the handling of the pandemic by the government:
* 52,3% of respondents feel that the government does not have sufficient measures in place to manage the spread of the virus, while 47,7% of respondents feel that the government has sufficient measures in place, compared with 48% in 2020 – showing little change in consumer perceptions on this measure.
* Interestingly, when asked if the prohibition of visiting public places like restaurants, parks and the ban on cigarettes and alcohol had assisted in stopping the spread of the virus, the vast majority disagreed and felt these measures had little to no effect.
* However, most respondents agreed that the banning of large social gatherings (87%), the mandatory wearing of masks (92%), night-time curfews (78%) and prohibiting movement between provinces (64%) were effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
* Of the total number of respondents, 58% indicated that they had been fully vaccinated, with 81% of those vaccinated receiving the Pfizer vaccine and 16% receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 3% indicated that they were unsure about which vaccine they received.
* 25% of respondents indicated they had not been vaccinated but planned on doing so, while 17% indicated they do not plan on being vaccinated.
The impact of the pandemic on work:
* The number of respondents who lost their jobs due to the pandemic increased by 5% to 17% in 2021 compared with 12% in April 2020.
* The number of people working from home in 2021 is 33%, declining by 10% from 43% in April 2020. This figure still represents a significant swathe of people – at least a third – who have not returned to the office and continue to work from home. It is clear that the pandemic has reshaped the world of work and that the work-from-home and hybrid work models will be permanent feature for many people. The implications for commercial property owners are marked.
* The number of people whose income was negatively impacted by the pandemic increased to 52,9% from 50,7% in April 2020.
What respondents require from their employers
* In 2021, 73,4% of respondents feel that their employer has done a good job of implementing the necessary safety measures to protect them from contracting the virus in the workplace. This is a slight improvement from 70,6% in 2020.
* 22% of respondents indicated that they needed their employers to provide the necessary tools to do their jobs properly, while 23% felt that employers need to do more to show that they care about their employees during this time.
* 5% were concerned with their job security, down from 12% in 2020.
* 38% mention the need for employers to stay connected to co-workers and their managers to provide the necessary direction during this time, which is a significant increase from 11% in 2020. This suggests that there has been a considerable increase in feelings of isolation and a disconnect between employees and managers as the pandemic drags on.
* 5% said they want to feel trusted to do their job without someone checking over their shoulder, which is slightly down from 6% in 2020.
* A further 7% require more ‘human’ engagement by showing support in non-financial ways, which is down from 12% in 2020.
On whether banks are doing enough to provide them with financial relief during the pandemic:
Compared to other banks:
* 64% Absa
* 63% Capitec (small sample)
* 57% FNB
* 61% Nedbank
* 60% Standard Bank.
Complaints about banks not doing enough are centred around payment holidays and issues around the repayments, bank charges, a lack of communication during this time, and a lack of support in general.
“The overall sentiment continues to be one of tackling the changes, adjusting to the new conditions as a new normal and ‘just getting on with it’,” says explains says Marko Fourie, product lead: SA-csi at Consulta. “There is also a marked decrease in interest in news sources about the pandemic from when the pandemic first arrived in South Africa, suggesting that people no longer care for the information or news in many ways.
“For many, it has come to be just another part of daily life. We need to guard against complacency setting in. For the most part, it seems that the pandemic has been subsumed by other pressing factors which have been amplified by the economic and social fallout of the pandemic – growing disparities in the country’s socioeconomics, the disproportionate negative impact on vulnerable communities, local government elections and political upheaval, and an overwhelming sense of pandemic fatigue.
“It’s clear from the research that Covid-19 continues to impact both individual and economic health negatively through every wave. Consulta will continue to monitor these trends as we enter the fourth and any subsequent waves of the pandemic in a bid to understand the impact through this research, particularly at a cumulative level,” he concludes.