As with any epidemic, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has evoked panic, fear and misconceptions. The risk communication pillar of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre is responding to the pandemic by facilitating correct and consistent information to enable the adoption of behaviours to prevent and control COVID-19. This study explored awareness, perception and practice of COVID-19 prevention among residents in Rivers State, Nigeria, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
This was a descriptive cross-sectional survey among 1294 adult residents across all districts of the state. It employed an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Knowledge was graded as excellent for scores of ≥80%, good for scores of 50–79% and poor for scores of <50%. Respondents who washed all critical parts of their hands were categorised as adopting correct handwashing practice. Regression modelling was employed to determine predictors of knowledge and practice of COVID-19 prevention with p=0.05.
The respondents were aged 18–80 y with an average age of 39.6 (SD=11.9) y. A total of 710 (54.9%) were male, 476 (36.8%) were unemployed with 685 (52.9%) having secondary education. The most common sources of information about COVID-19 were radio jingles (1102; 86.7%) and television adverts (940; 74.0%). Overall, 608 (47.0%) of the respondents had a poor knowledge of COVID-19. About 443 (34.9%) respondents believed they were unlikely to contract the virus. Only 505 (39.0%) of respondents washed all the critical parts of their hands correctly. Occupation (adjusted OR [AOR]=1.39, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.82, p=0.01), level of education (AOR=4.71, 95% CI 1.90 to 11.68, p<0.001) and location (AOR=1.75, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.38; p<0.001) significantly predicted respondents’ knowledge about COVID-19. The significant predictors of practice of COVID-19 were age (AOR=0.60, 95% CI 0.42 to 0.84, p=0.003), occupation (AOR=1.93, 95% CI 1.41 to 2.63, p<0.001), location (AOR=2.35, 95% CI 1.65 to 3.34, p<0.001) and knowledge about COVID-19 (AOR=7.75, 95% CI 5.94 to 10.11, p<0.001).
Broadcast media has a pivotal role to play in risk communication for behavioural change for the control of current and future epidemics in this population.