The last survey round in this study (at least for the time being) was conducted just after the summer holidays, from 7–11 September 2022. The pressure on hospitals is currently lower than six months ago, but sewage surveillance figures show that there are still fairly high levels of the virus in circulation. To counter another surge of the coronavirus this autumn, the sectors have drawn up sector-specific plans. A number of behavioural recommendations to limit the spread of coronavirus are also still in effect, such as washing hands and testing in response to symptoms. Moreover, anyone aged 12 years and older will be able to get a repeat vaccination this autumn.
More participants tested in the event of symptoms
Compliance with the hygiene recommendations (washing hands regularly and coughing and sneezing into the elbow) remains relatively stable. In response to symptoms that could indicate COVID-19, people are still advised to test for COVID-19. In most cases, a self-test is sufficient. In this round, there was an increase in the percentage of participants who responded to symptoms by testing and staying home (8 and 7 percentage points respectively). Nearly three-quarters of participants used a self-test or were tested by the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) if they had symptoms. And more than half of the participants stayed home during their symptoms, until they had a negative result on a self-test or GGD test. The number of participants who started self-isolating after a positive result on a self-test or GGD test remained the same compared to the previous survey round: just over half did not go outside at all, and one-third only left the house for a low-risk situation such as getting fresh air or walking the dog.
The increase in testing and staying home in response to symptoms is also reflected in factors that may explain this behaviour. Despite the minor decrease in concerns about another surge or a new virus variant, survey participants estimated the risk of becoming infected themselves as slightly higher than in June 2022. More participants support the recommendations to test and stay home in response to symptoms right now than in June. Also, slightly more participants reported seeing people around them testing for symptoms than three months ago.
Social activity and well-being remain stable
Survey participants took part in about as many social activities after the summer holidays as before the holiday period (in June). For example, they were just as likely to leave the house to visit a café or restaurant, go to a party, visit friends or family, exercise or play sports. The number of participants that left their home reached the highest level for most social activities since the start of the pandemic. The mental well-being of participants aged 25 years and older remained the same compared to the previous survey round in June. Due to the size of the group, no separate statements can be made about younger participants.
Involvement in sector plans depends on sector and job level
Within the group that took part in the study, 3301 survey participants work in one of the specified sectors (such as healthcare, education, or retail). Two out of ten participants working in one of these sectors (healthcare, education, retail, etc.) said they were familiar with their sector’s COVID-19 plans and what those plans entail. This awareness is slightly higher among participants who are in management or supervisory positions. There are also clear differences between sectors: in education, for example, half said they were familiar with the sector plans, while only a quarter of those in retail said the same. Of those participants who said they were familiar with the content of sector plans, about a third said that they felt involved in their sector’s plans, and more than three-quarters expressed their intent to comply with the sector plan when the government indicates that measures are needed. Whether participants find the measures proportionate (that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks) and see them as effective (that the measures curb the spread of the virus) seem to be the most important predictors here.
Trust in government rises slightly, demand for more communication remains
Compared to the previous survey round, confidence in the government’s approach has increased slightly, rising by 4 percentage points. A quarter of participants are now positive or very positive about the approach (25% positive; 51% neutral; 24% negative). The majority of participants felt that there were sufficient measures now (62% sufficient; 10% too many; 27% too few). Despite the fact that concerns about a possible surge in the virus have decreased slightly in this round (-7%), only 1 in 4 participants are still confident that the government will be well prepared for another surge. Three-quarters of participants indicated that the government should communicate more about its plans to deal with a possible surge.
These findings and more were clear from the twenty-first round (which is the final round for the time being) 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 7 and 11 September 2022 among 34,283 participants.