Survey Findings on Views about the Use of Mobile App “LeaveHomeSafe” launched by the Hong Kong SAR Government
To facilitate the public to keep a record of their whereabouts during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong SAR government has launched the “LeaveHomeSafe” COVID-19 exposure notification mobile app, and required the public to use the app before entering designated premises and government buildings or offices. A telephone survey was conducted from 17 to 24 March 2021 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to gauge public views on the arrangement. Through the survey, 712 respondents aged 18 or above were successfully interviewed, with response rates of 30.5% (landline) and 31.1% (mobile). The sampling error is plus or minus 3.67 percentage points, at a confidence level of 95%.
Major findings are summarised as follows:
Of the respondents successfully interviewed, 47.5% had used the mobile app, including 21.5% who used it frequently, 14.4% sporadically, and 11.6% scarcely. However, half of the respondents (50.4%) did not use or had not installed the app at all. Very few respondents (2.1%) did not know or felt it hard to respond.
Of those who had ever used the mobile app, the top reasons, ranked by number of respondents, were: “requirement by the visited places” (47.9%), “a hope to minimise the risk of further transmission of the virus” (35.2%), “convenience to keep a record to whereabouts” (23.5%), and “early notification about confirmed cases in visited places” (22.4%). Of those who did not use the mobile app or did not install the app at all, the top reasons, ranked by number of respondents, were: “fear to leakage of personal privacy” (50.9%), “no trust in the government” (49.6%), “no effect or low efficiency to deter the pandemic” (43.2%), and “inclination to keep handwritten records/adequacy of handwritten records/convenience of handwritten records” (32.5%).
The respondents were asked their perception about some popular opinions about the mobile app. Slightly more respondents (47.9%) agreed or very much agreed that the government might use the personal data collected for purposes unrelated to the pandemic, in contrast, 42.2% disagreed or very much disagreed with that view. However, more respondents (52.7%) disagreed or very much disagreed it was an infringement of basic human rights and freedoms by requiring people to use the mobile app or register personal information before entering designated venues. But around two fifths (41.9%) of the respondents agreed or very much agreed with that view.
Less than one third (28.1%) of the respondents agreed or very much agreed that the pandemic could not be stopped until the use of the mobile app was made compulsory, while two thirds (66.3%) of the respondents disagreed or very much disagreed with the view. More than a quarter (26.9%) of the respondents agreed or very much agreed that the pandemic could not be stopped until the mobile app was equipped with automatic tracking function, while around two thirds (65.8%) of the respondents disagreed or very much disagreed with the view. In general, 42.3% of the respondents regarded the mobile app helpful or very helpful to stop the pandemic, while 55.5% regarded the app unhelpful or not helpful at all.
The survey has kept track of changes in respondents’ views on the development of the local pandemic. Over one third of the respondents (37.2%) estimated that the local pandemic might ease in the coming month. 7.4% estimated it would be worsened, while 50.5% felt it would be about the same. The percentage distribution of the views was not significantly different from the last survey conducted in February 2021.
Less than a quarter of the respondents (22.4%) believed the current countermeasures by the government should be tightened, and 30.1% would like them to remain the same. The proportion of respondents who endorsed a relaxation of the current countermeasures is 39.8%. The overall percentage distribution of views regarding lockdown strategies had not significantly changed from the last survey in February 2021.
With regard to people’s concern of being infected, 43.8% were not worried, 40.3% were somewhat worried, 9.9% were quite worried, and 3.6% were very worried. The percentage distribution of the level of concern was not significantly different from the last survey in February 2021.
With regard to the prospects of the local economy, 70.9% of the respondents were quite worried or very worried about an oncoming recession, while 23.9% were not worried or were not worried at all. The percentage distribution of the views was not significantly different from the last survey in February 2021.