In the period between survey rounds 12 and 13, a number of coronavirus measures were relaxed. The most important relaxed measures are listed below. Travelling abroad was possible again; the opening hours of cafés and restaurants were extended (from 06:00 to 22:00 hrs); the number of visitors allowed at home was increased from two to four people; indoor sports were possible again; and indoor swimming pools, libraries, zoos, museums, amusement parks and music and dance schools reopened. 

In addition, the survey took place in a week when further relaxations had been announced, but had not yet been implemented. As a result, many measures have since changed or been abandoned compared to the survey period. The changes in current measures are reflected in the timeline of measures to control COVID-19.

More social activity and increased mental well-being, especially among young people

People who participated in the behavioural survey indicated that they engaged in more social activities during the past week, such as visiting cafés and restaurants, going to parties, receiving visitors, or participating in organised sports. During this period, visitor limits were extended from two to a maximum of four visitors per day. In the previous round, 10% of the participants said they had received more than two visitors at least once, compared to 22% in this round. In all these social activities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others. At the same time, support for a number of measures has also declined, especially for wearing masks, working from home and staying 1.5 apart.

As society opens up further, the well-being of the participants continues to improve. People report fewer feelings of loneliness and an increase in mental health. Although young people aged 16 to 24 years still score the lowest on well-being, it is precisely this group that shows the fastest recovery. The differences between the age groups are therefore becoming smaller.

Decrease in threat from the virus, fewer GGD tests, more self-testing

Compared to the previous round, survey participants perceive the virus as less of a threat, and estimate that there is a lower risk of becoming infected themselves or infecting someone else. This has been accompanied by a decrease in the percentage of participants who were tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) or a commercial testing company in the past six weeks if they had symptoms (52% now versus 66% in the previous round, for participants with symptoms who did not have an underlying health condition) or after close contact with an infected person (79% versus 84% in the previous round). In contrast, there was an increase in the percentage of participants who used self-tests in the 6 weeks prior to the survey (17% now versus 8% in round 12) and in the number of self-tests they used. Almost a quarter of the participants who used a self-test did so because of symptoms related to COVID-19. People who have symptoms are still urgently advised to get tested by the GGD. Participants also use self-testing for additional assurance before going to work or school, or to avoid infecting others.

Echoing the survey results for adults, participants indicated that their children were tested less frequently in this round. Whereas it was reported in round 12 that 71% of the children with symptoms were tested by the GGD or a commercial testing company, this was now only 52%. Children of participants were tested more frequently (77%) if they had been in contact with an infected person. When children who had symptoms or who had been in contact with an infected person were not tested, in 39% of cases the reason given was that they had already done a self-test. However, a self-test is not suitable for this purpose: in case of symptoms or contact with an infected person, a PCR test administered by the GGD will give a much more reliable result.

Testing and quarantine after travelling abroad

In this round, 43% of the participants who had travelled abroad had visited a country with a red or orange colour code. This group of survey participants did not fully comply with the quarantine measures, with only 24% staying inside after their return for as long as the quarantine advisory was applicable. The percentage of participants that were tested after returning from a red or orange area did increase somewhat, from 17% in round 12 to 22% in this round.

Long-term symptoms

In total, 8% of the participants in the behavioural survey are or have been infected with the coronavirus. A third (37%) of that group reported that they still had symptoms three months after infection. These long-term symptoms were most common among people aged 40-69 (39% to 41%), but one-quarter of the young people (aged 16-24 years) who had had a coronavirus infection still reported symptoms three months later. The most common symptoms are tiredness (75%) and forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating (50%).

Vaccination willingness remains high, age-dependent among young people

Compared to the previous round, we see an increase in the survey participants’ willingness to be vaccinated, especially in the age groups under 55 years old. The majority of the participants who have already had at least one vaccination continue to comply with the behavioural measures after their vaccination just as well as they did before. Even so, one-quarter reported that they were less likely to distance after vaccination. A smaller group also said they had been tested less often if they had symptoms, or had gathered in groups of more than four people on more than one occasion.

In this round, parents were asked for the first time what they think about vaccinating their children. 69% of parents with children aged 12-17 years would definitely or probably have their children vaccinated if a vaccine were available, compared to 47% of parents of children under the age of 12. It should be noted here that children aged 16 years and older have the right to self-determination and can therefore decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated. Children aged 12 to 15 years decide together with their parents about whether to be vaccinated. Parents of children aged 12 to 17 are less afraid of side-effects and more positive about the efficacy of vaccines in children compared to parents of children under 12.

More confidence in the Dutch government

With the many behavioural measures that have been relinquished and the high vaccination rate, confidence in the Dutch government’s approach has risen again (49% are positive, versus 34% in the previous round). More than half of the participants (61%) think that the government is taking sufficient measures, and 49% think that the government is using the right conditions to relax the previous measures. There is also a clear increase in the extent to which participants feel that policy is based on facts, that different societal interests are being considered, and that policy is explained well.