Since the last survey round (9-13 March 2022), all coronavirus measures have been discontinued. During the current survey round (8-12 June 2022), some behavioural recommendations still applied to limit the further spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, such as hygiene recommendations and testing and staying at home in the event of symptoms. Compared to the previous survey round, there are now far fewer people in hospital because of the coronavirus, and people are now advised to self-test with symptoms rather than getting tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs).

In this new situation, participants reported a sharp decrease in the sense of threat from the coronavirus. More participants are leaving the house for social contacts and cultural activities; at the same time, the percentage of people who test if they have symptoms has also decreased significantly. However, two-thirds of survey participants did express concerns about a possible new surge of COVID-19 and very limited confidence in the government’s long-term approach.

Increase in social activities, further recovery of mental health

Participants left their home to go to a party or to a café or restaurant more often in the week before the survey than during the previous survey round in March 2022. They also visited friends or relatives more often and received more visitors at home. This has been accompanied by a further decrease in loneliness and a slight increase in mental health, especially among participants aged 25 to 39.

Relatively stable compliance with hygiene recommendations, sharp drop in testing after symptoms

Compliance with the hygiene recommendations (washing hands regularly and coughing and sneezing into the elbow) remains relatively stable. However, the percentage of participants who used a COVID-19 self-test or got tested if they had symptoms has decreased significantly, dropping from 88% in March to 65% in the current survey round. Children were tested much less frequently if they had symptoms (-39%). The majority of participants who did test for COVID-19 only used a self-test. The percentage of participants staying home after a positive test result increased slightly. More than half of the participants did not go outside during the recommended self-isolation period (57%, which is +6%), and 30% only went outside for a relatively low-risk activity such as going for a short walk or walking the dog. However, even after testing positive for COVID-19, over 10% went out for another reason, such as to go shopping.

Another drop in confidence, concerns about new surge

After a small increase in confidence in the government’s approach during the previous survey round, confidence has decreased again in this survey round. Only 22% of participants were confident or very confident (52% neutral, 27% negative), which is a decrease of 8 percentage points. More participants indicated that not enough measures had been taken at the time of the survey (2nd week of June) (32% too few, 60% sufficient, 8% too many). In the open comments, some participants mentioned that things are going well now, but that we need to remain cautious to avoid a surge of the virus or a lockdown.

Almost two-thirds of participants (64%) indicated they are worried about a new surge of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and only 22% are confident that the government will be sufficiently prepared for it. Moreover, the majority (79%) of participants feel that the government should communicate more about plans in response to a possible surge. For example, participants mentioned the need for communication from the government on vaccination policy and possible measures in case of a new surge. Almost three-quarters of participants believe that, in the event of a new surge of the virus, the government should determine what measures are needed and at what time. In contrast, one in five participants would prefer to rely on personal responsibility and do not think that the government should not impose any measures at all. Three-quarters of participants (76%) agreed with the statement that the sectors should be closely involved in long-term plans.

These findings and more were clear from the twentieth 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 March 2022 among 32,838 participants.