BACKGROUND: Given the economic and social divide that exists in South Africa, it is critical to manage the health response of its residents to the Covid-19 pandemic within the different socio-economic contexts that define the lived realities of individuals .
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to analyse the Covid-19 preventive behaviour and the socio-economic drivers behind the health-response behaviour . DATA: The study employs data from waves 1 and 2 of South Africa's nationally representative National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) -Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM). The nationally representative panel data has a sample of 7073 individuals in Wave 1 and 5676 individuals in Wave 2 .
METHODS: The study uses bivariate statistics, concentration indices and multivariate estimation techniques, ranging from a probit, control-function approach, special-regressor method and seemingly unrelated regression to account for endogeneity while identifying the drivers of the response behaviour . FINDINGS: The findings indicate enhanced behavioural responsiveness to Covid-19 . Preventive behaviour is evolving over time; the use of face mask has overtaken handwashing as the most utilised preventive measure . Other measures, like social distancing, avoiding close contact, avoiding big groups and staying at home, have declined between the two periods of the study . There is increased risk perception with significant concentration among the higher income groups, the educated and older respondents . Our findings validate the health-belief model, with perceived risk, self-efficacy, perceived awareness and barriers to preventive strategy adoption identified as significant drivers of health-response behaviour . Measures such as social distancing, avoiding close contact, and the use of sanitisers are practised more by the rich and educated, but not by the low-income respondents .
CONCLUSION: The respondents from lower socio-economic backgrounds are associated with optimism bias and face barriers to the adoption of preventive strategies . This requires targeted policy attention in order to make response behaviour effective.