During the current survey round (9-13 March 2022), most coronavirus measures had been discontinued and normal opening hours had resumed for all locations. However, various recommendations were still in effect to prevent the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, such as washing hands, testing if symptoms developed, and self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Survey participants were less and less worried about the virus and social activities continue to increase.

More social activities, higher well-being among participants

Now that most of the coronavirus measures have been discontinued, survey participants of all ages are leaving their homes more often to play sports, visit cafés and restaurants, or go to a party. They are also receiving more visitors at home. Participants found it more difficult to distance from others, and distancing happened less often during all these activities compared to the previous survey round. Some participants noted that they are still trying to keep their distance, but are finding it difficult because other people are no longer staying 1.5 metres apart in public places.

The increase in social activity was accompanied by a restored sense of well-being. Participants reported less loneliness and better social contacts. Mental health is improving, especially among younger participants (16-39 years), thus reducing the gap between younger and older age groups. However, there is still a group of participants who still stay at home as much as possible (22%) or stay in isolation and do not see anyone at all (9%). This form of social isolation is more common among participants with severely impaired immunity, who may therefore be less protected by COVID-19 vaccination. Moreover, some participants described staying home more in response to the relaxed measures: “The more things open up, the more I withdraw.”

Compliance with hygiene recommendations remains stable

Compliance with the hygiene recommendations that are still in effect – washing hands, coughing/sneezing into your elbow and using paper tissues – was reported by participants in 68% - 73% of applicable situations, which is comparable to previous survey rounds. Public support has decreased slightly compared to the previous survey round, but more than 75% of participants still supported these hygiene recommendations. Participants found it less convenient to regularly wash hands for 20 seconds (55%) than to cough/sneeze into their elbow and use paper tissues (nearly 80%). Although the majority of participants (92%) still followed the recommendation not to shake hands, this has decreased compared to previous survey rounds. Similarly, fewer participants found it easy to comply with this recommendation (-5%) and support for this recommendation has decreased significantly (-11%). In line with that trend, a group of participants indicated that a new phase had commenced: “COVID-19 feels like it is over: got my booster, got infected and recovered, summer is coming. We’ll see where we’re at again in autumn, hopefully no new variant.”

More testing after symptoms, less isolation after positive test

After a major increase in testing if symptoms develop in the previous survey round – when self-tests were first able to be used even with symptoms – compliance with this recommendation increased even more in this round, rising to 88% (+5%). Two-thirds used a self-test. Nearly one in five participants who used a self-test (19%) tested positive for COVID-19. In this survey round, there was a decrease in the number of participants who then went to the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) for a confirmation test (from 90% to 81%), but 95% still warned their contacts about the positive test result themselves. Participants with more serious symptoms who also found self-testing less reliable were more likely to opt for a GGD test than a self-test. The percentage of children who were tested for COVID-19 in the event of symptoms remained stable and high (93%).

The percentage of participants who stayed home if they developed symptoms decreased compared to the previous survey round (-6%). Slightly more than half (56%) did not go outside at all, while 20% only went out for fresh air or to walk the dog. A similar decrease in compliance is observed for the recommendation to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 (-6%). In that situation, only 51% did not go outside at all, while 39% only went out for fresh air or to walk the dog.

Confidence in government approach shows some improvement

Confidence in the government’s approach to the coronavirus showed a clear increase in this survey round. 30% of participants had great confidence or very great confidence (+11%), while 50% were neutral and 20% had little to no confidence. More participants reported feeling that the government takes different interests into account (50%) and provides sufficient explanation (53%). In addition, more participants indicated that they were satisfied with the government’s approach.

he number of participants who find the measures illogical has decreased significantly (-25%), but 46% of participants still find it illogical or difficult to understand why the measures apply in some situations and not in others. For example, participants mentioned that policy choices on the use of face masks at events that attracted a high volume of visitors, such as during Carnival, were considered illogical.

These findings and more were clear from the nineteenth 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 9 and 13 March 2022 among 37,504 participants.