Public Survey Exposes Shocking Misconceptions On Our Understanding Of COVID-19

by Sher Zaman Khan

While the Coronavirus crisis is the only thing on our minds these days, the public remains shockingly unaware of the subject, relying more on hearsay, beliefs, and superstitions rather than actual medical knowledge.

This was exposed in a survey poll of 1000 Pakistanis by research company IPSOS in a study published on Thursday. The survey interviewed people from all over the country, including all provinces, regions and socioeconomic classes.

The poll revealed shocking misinformation on the virus and how to protect oneself from it: A staggering 82 percent of people believe that performing ablution five times a day can protect from Coronavirus.

Around 67 percent believed since Allah controls all the viruses, holding prayer congregations at mosques cannot transmit COVID-19. Likewise, 48 percent were certain that shaking hands is Sunnah and hence cannot be a source of infection.

The conspiracy theory angle is depressingly popular too: 43 percent of the respondents consider the pandemic a US and Israeli conspiracy against Pakistan and 43% believe they should avoid meeting members of other religious sects to avoid contracting the disease. Almost half of the respondents are blaming pilgrims from Iran as the cause of the virus in Pakistan.

The scientific misconceptions were equally mind-boggling.

Around 50 percent of people believe that Pakistanis have stronger immunity as compared to the rest of the countries and Coronavirus would not affect them much. On the other hand, 67 percent of respondents are sure that taking steam regularly could be an effective safeguard against the viral attack. 43 percent said local remedies like garlic or onions were the only cure against COVID-19 (they are not).

The government has notified effective measures against the pandemic but the study shows the limitations of these measures. Only two among five correctly remembered the official helpline number 1166 for Coronavirus.

Youngsters and educated people were more aware and less prone to misinformation, so were the financially privileged as compared to the lower-income classes.

Unsurprisingly, the finger has been pointed at social media as the source of this misinformation. The poll revealed that YouTube was the most prominent source for respondents on the issue.

More of the key findings from the survey are as follows:

  • Awareness regarding the official helpline on Covid-19 is 16 times higher amongst men as compared to women.
  • 62 percent respondents said pilgrims from Iran were responsible for spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan.
  • 58 percent people believe Coronavirus will disappear once the summer heat starts.
  • 45 percent respondents think Covid-19 affects people of age 55 or above.
  • The rural population is more likely to fall for religious and scientific misconceptions than the urban population.

The poll has exposed some serious blind spots in our public’s understanding of the issue. It is clear that the government and the media need to do a lot more on improving awareness, countering online misinformation and debunking fabrications and myths.

Without this, the public remains dangerously exposed and no amount of steam or ablution is going to cure that.

The writer is a researcher and media analyst based in Islamabad.


  • I dont see any conspiracy in the point mentioned these religious and scientific points are 100% true it seems like our people are still in their senses and are not brainwashed by paid media.

    • Yes exactly. West has nothing important to do except for weakening us because we’re already making a lot of progress. Why are you making joke out of yourself?

      • Asalmoalekun, Brother May Allah bless you with good health. Please learn hadith books to open your mind and clear your concepts also Quran is very good book but for those who believe and focus on what you read. After reading few hadiths I really wished of having awareness to them in my school life.

      • Pagal insan yeh aik bio-weapon ya duniya ko control karene ke koshish hai apna dimag istmal karo aur america main koi maut nahi hau rahe waha ke loggo nai hakikat bata dei hai ja ke youtube par dekho sare hospitals khale hai koi patient nahi hospitals main yeh sab darama kar rahe hai.

  • Our people have a very narrow-minded mindset. It seems that unless there is a religious or western spin on something, they do not believe it. The amazing thing is that some educated people are among these dumbasses.

  • This is not a conspiracy it is the strong belief. And it is 100% correct all things in the world even a tiny thing like virus are controlled by Allah. Of course prayer five times a day can protect one by all types of evil things and yes can protect from all viruses. A Muslim has strong belief that only from the order of Allah, any disease or virus will attack on him. So all my Muslim brothers and sisters keep your belief on Allah, Do care but nothing can happen without the order of Allah.

  • China new definition of Covid-19 case is anyone who virus and symptoms. They are not giving status of Covid-19 patient to anyone who is not showing symptoms.
    If we implement this criteria in 3rd world, we will see the death ratio is low. The major reason could be strong body Immunity against viruses as majority of us had been sick in past and our system have developed antibodies. Secondly, our system are accustomed to harsh environment like no heating or cooling in Harsh weathers.
    Most of 3rd would people live rough and average life not Posh lifestyle you witness in first world where death rate is high.

  • First, the guest author’s name should be made public to know if he/she has any merit/standing to post such article.

    “62 percent respondents said pilgrims from Iran were responsible for spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan.”

    That and tableeghi jamaat ijtimaas are indeed responsible for the sizable jump in COVID-19 cases in at least three provinces of Pakistan. That is fact, not a misconception. Being politically correct is not an excuse to hide facts.

    The public would be much better informed if media could get its hand out of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s a55, stop criticizing every action of government unless critically warranted and do actual reporting by having actual doctors sitting on discussion panels rather than bunch of beyond-intellectual-expiry journalists opining their unsubstantiated BS on to the public.

  • There is no misconception related to ( corona virus) as written in point number one in last pic. Have faith in ALLAH.

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