Preparedness and Preventive Behaviors for a Pandemic Disaster Caused by COVID-19 in Serbia – Spremnost I preventivno ponašanje za pandemijsku katastrofu izazvanu Kovidom-19 u Srbiji

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and has since spread globally, especially to Europe and North America, resulting in the ongoing 2019–20 global coronavirus pandemic disaster. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to viral pneumonia and multi-organ failure and death. As of 19 April 2020, more than 2.35 million cases have been reported across 185 countries and territories, resulting in more than 162,000 deaths. Risk to communities with ongoing sustained widespread disease transmission depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people; the severity of resulting illness; and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccines or medications that can treat the illness) and the relative success of these. In the absence of vaccine or treatment medications, non-pharmaceutical interventions become the most important response strategy based on community interventions such as person-to-person distancing, mask-wearing, isolation and good personal hygiene (hand-washing) — all of which have been demonstrated can reduce the impact of this seemingly unstoppable globally spreading natural disaster. This paper presents the results of quantitative research regarding the level of citizen preparedness for disasters caused by coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Serbia. The survey was conducted using a questionnaire that was given and then collected online among 975 respondents during disaster in March-April 2020. The questionnaire explored citizens’ basic socio-economic and demographic characteristics, their knowledge, preparedness, risk perception and preventive measures taking individually and as a community to prevent the deadly and widespread transmission of Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 in the Republic of Serbia. Based on findings that there are major differences in the public’s perception of risks presented by communicable disease threats such as presented by COVID-19, emergency management agencies should use these differences to develop focused strategies to enhance community and national preparedness through the promotion of behavioral change and the improvement of risk management decision-making regarding pandemic disasters.

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