Quarter of Russians Believe Coronavirus Is Fictional, New Study Shows

More than 23% of Russians think the coronavirus threat is not real and the epidemic is made up, according to a survey by Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, published on Thursday, Russia Today reported.

Conducted in May, the survey of 30,000 Russians found that 23.2% believe Covid-19 is a work of fiction, while 9.6% of respondents think the danger is being exaggerated. This suggests that when combined, almost a third (32.8%) of respondents do not fully believe in the coronavirus threat, the RBK newspaper reported.

The study revealed a dramatic split in Russian attitudes toward self-isolation and the government’s anti-coronavirus measures. Of the non-believers, 43% decided to visit relatives during self-isolation, and three-quarters (74.2%) were convinced that there was no need for the mandated stay-at-home regime. Those who believe in the danger of the virus visited their relatives much less often, with only 18% going to see family members, RT adds.

The HSE survey also exposed Russian’s increasing dissatisfaction with self-isolation rules. In early April, just 15.9% believed it was an unnecessary measure. By late May, this had risen to almost a third (32.4%) of the population. As it currently stands, a majority (56%) of respondents support the removal of restrictions.

According to the study, the level of skepticism ranges from region to region, with Russia’s Southern Federal District having the most non-believers (41%).

Speaking to the media, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called any denial of the coronavirus “an unwillingness to look around and accept reality.” Peskov, along with his wife Tatyana, was hospitalized with the virus, and was recently discharged. “I can say from my own experience: it exists, and it’s dangerous,” he explained.

One of the study’s authors, Ruslan Artamonov, told the RBK newspaper that those who have lost the most income are most likely to not believe in the threat of the virus.

“If a person does not feel any danger, then self-isolation just prevents them from going to work, or finding it in order to earn money,” he said. “Among the Southern Federal District population, there are more people who lost income during self-isolation. Therefore, many people would like to see the self-isolation regime softened, to start earning more quickly,” he concluded.

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