Between the current round (19-23 January 2022) and the previous round (24-28 November 2021) of the survey-based study, the Omicron variant became dominant in the Netherlands. The previous survey round took place just before the lockdown was announced, while the current round was just before the lockdown ended. During the current survey round, many venues were still closed, including cafés, restaurants and cultural institutions.

Fewer concerns about the virus, lower support for behavioural rules

At the end of November, very little was known about the new omicron variant, and that lack of knowledge was accompanied by a growing sense of threat among the survey participants. By now, it is known that the course of illness from the Omicron variant is milder, and fewer people are concerned about the virus. The same pattern is observed in support for the measures and how effective people believe the measures are in helping to suppress the virus: an increase in the previous round, followed by a decrease now. The drop in support was strongest for the recommendations to work from home as much as possible, receive a maximum of four guests at home, and quarantine in case of symptoms. Support for the new recommendation to wear a face mask in busy outdoor areas was lower than for wearing face masks in other locations: 60% of participants supported wearing a face mask in busy outdoor areas, compared to 80% in indoor public places. 

Only 22% of the participants followed the advice to wear face masks in busy outdoor areas in the week before the survey, compared to 88% for indoor spaces and 98% for public transport (remaining stable). The most significant decrease was observed in relation to ventilation of homes (down from 74% in early autumn to 31% in November and 25% now). The main increases were seen in avoiding busy places (note: cafés and restaurants were still closed), staying home in case of symptoms, and testing in case of symptoms. Compliance with hygiene recommendations and the 1.5-metre rule remained stable. People still had the hardest time distancing while shopping, at parties and at work. Two-thirds of the participants who did not maintain distance at work indicated that they were unable to do so as a result of the type of work (for example in healthcare) or how their work environment was structured.

More testing in case of symptoms after changed testing policy

A significant majority of participants (83%) in this survey round were tested for COVID-19 due to symptoms: a 4% increase. The percentage of people who only had a PCR test decreased (from 33% to 22%), while the percentage who only used a self-test (29% to 39%) or had another PCR test after a self-test (17% to 22%) increased. Since 3 December 2021, the recommendation has been that people can also use a self-test if they have symptoms. As a result, there has been a major increase in self-reported compliance with testing in case of symptoms, although it was actually a modest rise (4%).  A similar increase can be observed in children: 92% of children were tested for COVID-19 if they had symptoms (previous round: 86%). 

Now that a self-test is also considered sufficient in case of symptoms, support for this behavioural rule has increased (although support for all other behavioural rules has decreased) and participants indicated that they now find it easier to test in case of symptoms. Participants with multiple or severe symptoms and participants who indicated that they find self-testing less reliable were more likely to opt for a GGD test than a self-test if they had symptoms.