Otago Daily Times

Covid19 patients felt stigmatise­d: survey


NAPIER: Many Covid19 patients in Hawke’s Bay felt stigmatise­d by the community following their diagnosis, while some said they felt harassed and identified by the media, a survey has found.

Twentyfour patients were asked about their experience­s after testing positive for the virus. Some said they had concerns about being identified when cases were reported, others felt targeted by the media or harassed by reporters, and said there was ‘‘scaremonge­ring’’.

‘‘A number of early cases were . . . pursued by media seeking interviews,’’ a summary said.

Many noted ‘‘negative reactions’’ from the community towards them, including stigma after being identified by media.

Some respondent­s said they ‘‘had to field negative calls and social media messages from people they knew’’.

The survey was carried out by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s public health unit in July.

‘‘We understand there is a high level of anxiety in the community, but it is not acceptable to attack people who have been caught up in this pandemic,’’ he said.

‘‘I cannot stress enough that we need to look out for each other. We want people with symptoms of Covid19 to get tested, so we can manage this outbreak and recognise clusters of transmissi­on and stop them from spreading.’’

The directorge­neral of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has also said those who test positive for the virus should be supported for taking action to check if they have the virus.

‘‘People who we know have tested positive to Covid19 are to be commended — they have done their bit to protect the team of 5 million, and their quick action in coming forward to be tested, and then going into isolation, is indeed to be encouraged and commended.’’

In order to combat the stigma, patients who answered the DHB survey suggested a need for better public education about the coronaviru­s and its transmissi­on.

Overall, most patients felt supported by the public health unit, but some had concerns about the negative effect of people they had interacted with being identified through contact tracing, and only some felt their needs were met when they developed more severe symptoms.

People diagnosed earlier in the pandemic were more likely to have had a negative experience.

A total of 44 people contracted the coronaviru­s in Hawke’s Bay, which included 24 people in the Ruby Princess cruise ship cluster. — RNZ

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