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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 6

Perception of Saudi Population about COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study

1 Associate Professor of Surgery, and consultant Surgeon. Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Taif University, Taif, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
2 MBBS, Neurology Resident, Prince Sultan Military Medical City (PSMMC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission24-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance17-Mar-2021
Date of Web Publication25-Jan-2023

Correspondence Address:
Bashaier G AlQahtani
Neurology Resident, Prince Sultan Military Medical City (PSMMC), Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_649_20

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Background: The evolving COVID-19 outbreak requires a high level of population awareness and other measures to protect public health. Objectives: In this study, we aimed to identify knowledge, awareness, and fears of the Saudi population regarding COVID-19 during this pandemic. Methods: A cross-sectional survey study was conducted from April to May 2020 in different Saudi areas. Data were collected via online survey software (Google Forms), and the data collection tool was developed and validated by the study authors to fulfill the study objectives. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 21.0. Descriptive statistics and Chi-square tests were used for comparison between groups. The statistical significance was considered when the P value ≤0.05. Results: Study participants included 2982 people with 66.8% females. The average percentage of the awareness levels of the current study population was 68%. The vast majority (95.1%) did not know how the virus spread while 94.7% of the participants know the distance that a person should maintain from another person. Significantly higher percentages (70%) knew about and were aware of the prevention methods, including social distancing and hand hygiene, and 73.5% knew that elderly people with chronic diseases are the highest risk group to become infected. The highest significant fear of COVID-19 was from lack of treatment, which was reported by 77.5% of the participants with a P value of <0.05. Conclusions: Our study shows that the population has acceptable knowledge about COVID-19. Education and work-based awareness programs about COVID-19 are needed, especially for prevention and treatment aspects.

Keywords: Awareness, COVID-19, fears, knowledge, Saudi Arabia

How to cite this article:
M. Mahfouz ME, AlQahtani BG. Perception of Saudi Population about COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int J Prev Med 2023;14:6

How to cite this URL:
M. Mahfouz ME, AlQahtani BG. Perception of Saudi Population about COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study. Int J Prev Med [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 21];14:6. Available from: https://www.ijpvmjournal.net/text.asp?2023/14/1/6/368552

  Introduction Top

Corona-virus (CoV) is one of the major pathogens that primarily targets the human respiratory system; however, in 2003, CoV was not considered to be highly pathogenic to humans.[1]

In 2012, a new CoV was responsible for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. Both of them were considered a threat to global health security. Currently, a new CoV, (2019-nCoV) was identified in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan at which time the first case with pneumonia of an unknown cause was reported.[2]

The new name refers to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This virus is one of the most challenging issues facing worldwide in 2020 and perhaps through new century. Multiplatforms, websites, and hundreds of daily published studies deal with this virus to obtain the most accurate information about it.

SARS-CoV-2 infected patients develop mild symptoms, such as dry cough, sore throat, and fever.[2] Most of these cases have spontaneously recovered. However, some have developed severe complications, including organ failure, septic shock, pulmonary edema, severe pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.[3]

This virus is transmitted by direct contact with scattered droplets from sneezing or coughing. Also, a human being can be infected by touching surfaces contaminated with this virus and then touching their facial areas (eye, nose).[4] More than 43,000 confirmed cases have identified in 28 countries, with >99% of patients in China and 1115 deaths as of 11th February.[5]

According to the Istituto Superiore di Sanità as of 11th March, Italy has had 12,462 confirmed cases and 827 deaths.[6]

In the United Kingdom, they estimate that on 23rd March, there were 102,000 (median; 95% credible range 54,000–155,000) new cases and 320 (211–412) new critical care reports, with 464,000 (266,000–628,000) cumulative cases since 16th February.[7]

On March 30, 2020, there were 7448 reported cases and 89 reported deaths in Canada.[8] On other hand, on May 1, the total confirmed case in Saudi Arabia were reported as 22,753 with 162 deaths.[9] On the same day, the number of confirmed cases in the United States was then ten times the cases documented in Saudi Arabia (1,095,304).[10]

It is highly advisable to keep individual awareness about the critical information to limiting spread this pandemic and providing excellent health care during this period. However, until now, there have not been any studies of perception and awareness of COVID-19 among the Saudi population. So, in our research, we aimed to investigate the perceptions of the Saudi population about the essential general concepts concerning COVID-19.

  Methods Top

A cross-sectional study was designed to assess the perception and awareness of COVID-19 among the Saudi community. The samples of 2998 subjects were collected randomly through an online questionnaire from April to May 2020. Ethics approval was acquired from the Research Ethics Committee at Taif University (41-00168). The survey included two parts. The first part included questions about the sociodemographic data, such as age, gender, marital state, nationality, region of residence, education level, profession/job, specialty, and any chronic diseases. The second part addressed general COVID-19 knowledge based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. We asked about the most prominent information (definition of Coronaviruses and COVID-19, the symptoms, incubation period for the virus, methods of spread, the primary techniques to use for prevention, diagnostic tools, assessment of some wrong public concepts around the vaccine and the treatment of viruses, and the rang of societal worries.

Data collection

We designed a validated version of the Arabic questionnaire. The online questionnaire was shared through social media applications, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Before data collection, all participants were informed about the nature of the study, and their participation was voluntary, and the electronic consents were then obtained from those who agreed to participate in the study. All Saudi participants in the study were over 15-year old.

Statistical analysis

The data will be entered using Microsoft Excel 2010. They will be coded for analysis purposes using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences: SPSS program version 21.0. Data analysis included descriptive statistics in addition to the Chi-square test for comparison between groups. Statistical significance is considered to be P value ≤0.05.

  Results Top

The total number of the current study participants was 2982, and almost two-thirds of them were females at 66.8%, 50.8% were single, and 69.1% have a university level educational. More than one-third (35%) were students, and 34.9% were from the Eastern region. Almost 14% of the participants reported suffering from diseases, and the vast majority (94.8%) were not using any antihypertensive medications. A total of 638 (21.4%) reported going to crowded places during the last two weeks before the study, and 21.6% of the participants have a health practitioner in their family. Only 1.1% reported traveling to one of the affected countries in March. Social media was the main source of knowledge about COVID-19 among the current study participants at 75.1%. Data are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: General factor information (n=2982)

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The level of general awareness about COVID-19 among the study participants is shown in [Table 2] and [Table 3]. Overall, the average percentage of the level of awareness of the current study population was 68%, indicating an acceptable knowledge level. More than half (51.4%) of the respondents wrongly thought that COVID-19 is a large group of viruses that may cause disease in animals and humans, whereas only 48.6% knew the correct answer although the difference was not statistically significant. On the other hand, a significantly (P < 0.05) higher percentage of the participant know that it is an infectious disease caused by the newly discovered coronavirus, not like the flue at 75.6%. Only 36.6% of the participants knew that the virus is considered biological warfare, whereas the vast majority (90.9%) correctly knew symptoms. The vast majority (95.1%) did not know how the virus spread, and only 0.8% correctly answered it as “by dispersed drops only when the person sneezes.” The distance that a person should maintain between another person is more than 1 m (3 ft), and this fact was acknowledged by 94.7% of the participants. Significantly higher percentages (70%) knew and were aware of the prevention methods including social distancing and hand hygiene. Similarly, a statistically significant higher percentage of the respondents knew that elderly people with chronic diseases are at the highest risk for becoming infected with COVID-19 at 73.55% with a P value of < 0.05. Almost 94% were aware that there is no vaccine for the disease, 84.5% knew that the incubation period is from 1 to 14 days, and 87.2% reported that the disease is diagnosed through nasal swabbing.
Table 2: The general awareness (n=2982)

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Table 3: The level of awareness (n=2982)

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Participants' fears of the COVID-19 pandemic are shown in [Table 4] and [Figure 1]. The results revealed that the highest significant fear was lack of treatment, which was reported by 77.5% of the participants with a P value of <0.05. Additionally, a statistically significant higher percentage of the participants (58.5%) expressed fears that he/she or one of the family members would become infected with a P value <0.05. On the other hand, the vast majority (98.5%) showed no fear toward low awareness, and 65.4% of the participants did not express any fear of economic collapse caused by this pandemic. Moreover, almost all of the respondents (99.8%) did not fear early unblock. All P values were statistically significant.
Table 4: The relationship between demographic data and general awareness (n=2982)

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Figure 1: The most country that participants be able to offer treatment for the disease sure of the effectiveness

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The relationship between demographic data and general awareness:

As shown in [Table 5], the relationship between demographic factors (gender, age, marital status, and education level) and general awareness was tested using the Chi-square test at 0.05. The significant relationships were selected and are presented in [Table 5].
Table 5: The relationship between demographic data and general awareness (n=2982)

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A statistically significant relationship between age and the definitions of coronavirus was found and was higher among young-aged participants (X2 = 88.68, P < 0.05). Also, a significant relationship between marital status and awareness level was noted and was higher among singles (X2 = 47.55, P < 0.05). These significant relationships provide indications that single and young people are more aware of COVID-19 issues than their older counterparts.

A relationship between gender and thinking that the virus was produced in a factory (biological warfare) with higher percentage in females (X2 = 65.27, P < 0.05) was found, indicating that female was more aware of this issue than males. Also, a statistically significant relationship between age and thinking that the virus is a biological weapon was among elder participants (X2 = 28.66, P < 0.05.

A relationship between age and awareness about the possibility of being infected with COVID-19 by someone who is asymptomatic or has mild symptoms (X2 = 39.23, P < 0.05) was found, in which older people agreed with this issue more than younger ones (P < 0.05). Additionally, a relationship between marital status and the awareness of this issue also was shown (X2 = 112.47, P < 0.05).

Similarly, younger aged and single participants showed significantly higher awareness levels regarding avoiding direct contact with anyone at (X2 = 25.54, P < 0.05) and (X2 = 16.86, P < 0.05), respectively.

  Discussion Top

In a cross-sectional survey of almost 3000 participants across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we assessed population awareness about the COVID-19, and the results revealed an acceptable level of awareness. More than three quarters showed knowledge of it infectious nature, and the vast majority of people understand its symptoms although >95% did not know how it is spread.

It is well reported that raising public awareness about infectious diseases is one of the prevention milestones of these diseases that hinders progression of preventative measures. A higher level of awareness plays a substantial role in primary prevention and allows suspect individuals to recognize the symptoms early and take the necessary precautions in addition to seeking treatment at the initial disease stage.[11] Our results suggest an acceptable level of awareness among Saudi population. In a similar Egyptian study, Ahmed et al. suggested adequate awareness regarding infection and route of COVID-19 transmission.[12] However, the estimated knowledge level in the current study is considered lower compared to a previously published local study in which the knowledge level exceeded 81% compared to 68% in the current study.[13]

In accordance with a recently published study among the general public in the US and the UK[14] and a Saudi local study,[13] the current study respondents showed a high knowledge level about COVID-19 symptoms. Similar results were also obtained from university students in Jordan,[15] putting them into consideration with respect to the differences among study populations.

COVID-19 is rapidly transmitted, and transmission can occur by close contact with an infected person.[16–19] The vast majority of the current study's participants did not know how the virus is transmitted. Almost 94% of the respondents knew that a vaccine for COVID-19 as of the date of the study conduction is lacking. The respondents showed high awareness with the majority expressing knowledge about social distancing and also awareness of asymptomatic infection transmission. Previous studies among Chinese[20] and Japanese[21] populations showed similar findings regarding public knowledge toward COVID-19. In a multinational cross-sectional study that included participants from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in which knowledge and practices toward COVID-19 were addressed, it was found that participants were still embracing misconceptions regarding COVID-19, leading to an insufficient practice of protective measures against COVID-19 infection.[22] Our results showed that 70% of the participating population knew and were aware of the prevention methods, including social distancing and hand hygiene.

WHO, along with public health agencies in the UK, the USA, and other countries, have issued guidelines that individuals with cardiovascular, chronic kidney, and chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and a range of other chronic conditions are individuals who should be considered at increased risk of infection with COVID-19.[23–25] The current study participants presented good knowledge in this regard.

COVID-19 and its consequences cause fears, worries, and anxiety among populations worldwide. Compared with other conditions, fear is one characteristic traits of infectious diseases, and it is directly associated with disease transmission rates in addition to morbidity and mortality. The COVID-19 situation has been exacerbated owing to the insufficient control measures as well as the lack of effective therapeutic mechanisms.[26–28] Our results support these findings since lack of treatment was the major fear of the current study respondents. In Japan, Shigemura et al. emphasized the COVID-19 economic impact and its effects on well-being in addition to the likely high levels of fear and panic behavior, including the stockpiling of resources, in the general population.[29]

  Conclusion Top

In conclusion, most of the current study participants have moderate levels of knowledge and perceptions about COVID-19. Lack of treatment represented the greatest fear generated by COVID-19. Our findings highlight the need for more education and awareness programs by the various types of mass media.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]


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