Confidence in the government remains low, number of people supporting more measures rises
Despite the fact that infection rates and hospital admissions increased significantly between the previous survey round (mid-September) and this survey round (16-24 October), participants did not report an increase in perceived threat from the virus, but rather a slight decrease in support for various measures. Confidence in the government’s COVID-19 policies remained stable but low (28% of participants were positive), and significantly lower among participants who are not vaccinated (1% positive, 87% negative) than among participants who are vaccinated (29% positive, 21% negative). However, a larger percentage of participants now state that the government is not taking sufficient measures (from 26% in the previous survey round to 39% now), although the percentage of participants who think that there are exactly enough measures remains the largest (48%). In the open comment section, participants indicated that there is a need to tighten (and enforce) the relaxed measures.
Little support for distancing recommendation, decrease in compliance
With the relaxed measures that were made possible by introducing the COVID-19 entry pass, various locations are attracting larger crowds. This is reflected in part in a decrease in the percentage of participants who avoided busy places (53% in the previous survey round and 45% now). As expected, at locations where the COVID-19 entry pass is required, people are less likely to stay 1.5 metres apart (e.g. a drop from 49% to 26% distancing at cultural institutions). Once again, distancing proved to be most difficult at parties, at work and in the supermarket: less than 20% of people stated they were able to do so. Support for the 1.5 metre rule has dropped significantly since the announcement that distancing would be discontinued, and this trend has continued: from 75% in August 2021 to 55% now. Participants who expressed less support for distancing are also less compliant with this recommendation. A frequently mentioned reason for not distancing is that it is difficult or impossible due to the relaxed measures. Participants mentioned that social pressure (such as pressure to shake hands) or how the area is structured (such as crowds in public places) played a role here. The results confirm this: participants who find it easier to keep their distance, and see people in their vicinity also distancing, are also more likely to distance themselves.
The increase in social activities seems to have a positive effect on social well-being. Once again, fewer participants reported feeling lonely in this survey round, a lower percentage missed seeing family and friends in real life, and social interactions were assessed more positively. Psychological health and mental well-being remained stable compared to the previous survey round.
Decrease in GGD testing with symptoms
The percentage of participants who were tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) if they had symptoms decreased again (33% now compared to 41% in the previous round). The number of people doing a self-test if they had symptoms remained relatively stable (30% last round compared to 32% now). Within the group of participants who got tested for COVID-19 if they had symptoms, participants who had multiple symptoms or more severe symptoms (such as difficulty breathing or fever) were more likely to get tested by the GGD than use a self-test. In addition, participants who find it easier to get tested were more likely to opt for a GGD test.
The percentage of participants who do not get tested at all if they have symptoms increased slightly in this survey round, rising from 35% to 39%. Participants who believe that getting tested if they have symptoms will help in the fight against the coronavirus were more likely to do a coronavirus test if they have symptoms, and participants who were tested by the GGD were most convinced that this recommendation is effective.
Decrease in home ventilation and airing out in the context of visits
Since the last survey round, there has been a sharp decrease in the percentage of participants who ensure sufficient fresh air in the home. Only 39% of the participants usually or always have a window or ventilation grille open and air the house thoroughly at least twice a day (compared to 73% in the previous round). Ventilation is also less thoroughly implemented in the context of receiving visitors. Half of participants have a window or ventilation grille open while they have visitors (compared to 75% in the previous round), while 36% air out their home before receiving visitors and 37% do so after the visitors leave (compared to 62% and 63% respectively in the previous round). Participants stated that they are now ventilating less thoroughly because of the colder weather.
Limited checking of COVID-19 entry pass
In the week before the survey questionnaire was filled in, 67% of vaccinated participants had visited a location where the COVID-19 entry pass is mandatory. Unvaccinated participants visited these locations less often, and more than half (51%) indicated that they wanted to go to such locations, but did not because they did not want to get tested. The entries in the open comment section indicate dissatisfaction and lack of clarity about the COVID-19 entry pass. For example, people who have been vaccinated could also be infected, but may still be allowed to enter without a test certificate, or employees at the same location do not need an entry pass, or because enforcement is not consistent. 21% of participants were fully checked (COVID-19 entry pass plus ID) during their last visit to a café or restaurant, and 59% were partly checked (only COVID-19 entry pass), compared to about 50% and 33-48% at other locations were a COVID-19 entry pass is required. At these other locations, admission tickets are usually checked at the door, which means that these locations are better equipped to check the COVID-19 entry pass.
These findings and more were clear from the sixteenth 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 20 and 24 October 2021 among 38,403 participants.