Less support for measures and further decline in confidence in COVID-19 policies
The perceived threat from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 saw a temporary increase following the surge in early summer, but has decreased again in this survey round. This trend is accompanied by a decrease in support, particularly for the measures involving social restrictions, such as avoiding crowds, staying 1.5 metres apart, working from home, and wearing a face mask in public transport. In early summer, when reported infections dropped rapidly, vaccination coverage rose, and many relaxed measures were announced, support for measures declined and confidence in government policies increased. Confidence in the government’s COVID-19 policies has now decreased, however, dropping from 31% six weeks ago to 26% now. This is accompanied by an increase in people who consider the policies unfair, and a sharp increase in people who see the measures as confusing, even though there are fewer measures in place.
Further decrease in crowd avoidance and distancing, well-being remains stable
With the increase in social activities and parties and the growing crowds in many venues, participants are finding it more difficult to stay 1.5 metres apart. Participants also indicated that they avoided crowds less often in the week before the study, and distanced less often in situations with friends, family and colleagues. Although staying 1.5 metres apart will continue to be urgently recommended after 25 September, it will no longer be required in busy locations where a COVID-19 access pass is used, such as in cafés and restaurants and at cultural institutions.
This decrease in compliance seems to be related not only to lower perceived threat and busier public areas, but also to vaccination. For example, more than half of vaccinated participants indicated that they were distancing less from friends, family and colleagues after vaccination.
The increase in social activities also has a positive side: Loneliness was reported among fewer and fewer participants (especially young people aged 16-24), and a lower percentage of participants miss seeing friends and family in real life. Psychological health and mental well-being are stable compared to the previous survey round.
More participants with symptoms are using a self-test, less GGD tests
Since the introduction of the self-tests in April 2021, their use has increased significantly: from 8% in the previous 6 weeks (early May) to 25% in the current survey round. Self-tests were most commonly used among young people (16-24 years: 63%) and least often by older people (70 years and above: 9%). People who have symptoms are still urgently advised to get tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs); despite that fact, participants who have symptoms are increasingly using a self-test (5% in early May compared to 30% now). In contrast, the number of participants with symptoms who were tested by the GGD decreased during this period, from 62% in early May to 35% now. Also, nearly one-third of participants with symptoms said they had not done a COVID-19 test because they had already been vaccinated. A similar impression was observed among children, where a self-test is also used far more often in the event of symptoms, and GGD testing is used less often.
Limited compliance with mandatory quarantine, partial compliance with recommended testing after travelling abroad
Over 25% of participants had been abroad in the six weeks prior to the survey. Testing before or after returning from abroad is important to limit the introduction of new virus variants from other countries. 53% of travellers without vaccination or recovery certificates arranged for a test before returning from a yellow, orange or red area. Travellers from a very high-risk area are subject to mandatory quarantine. After returning, one-third of the 131 participants who returned from a very high-risk area complied with mandatory quarantine; 56% received no visits. Over 25% of all travellers complied with the urgent recommendation to do a GGD test or self-test after returning to the Netherlands.
These findings and more were clear from the fifteenth round of the survey-based study conducted by the RIVM Corona Behavioural Unit in cooperation with GGD GHOR Nederland and the 25 Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs), conducted between 8 and 12 September 2021 among 44,366 participants.