Dynamic Public Perceptions of the Coronavirus Disease Crisis, the Netherlands, 2020

Emerg Infect Dis. 2021 Apr;27(4):1098-1109. doi: 10.3201/eid2704.203328. Epub 2021 Jan 25.


A key component of outbreak control is monitoring public perceptions and public response. To determine public perceptions and public responses during the first 3 months of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Netherlands, we conducted 6 repeated surveys of ≈3,000 persons. Generalized estimating equations analyses revealed changes over time as well as differences between groups at low and high risk. Overall, respondents perceived the risks associated with COVID-19 to be considerable, were positive about the mitigation measures, trusted the information and the measures from authorities, and adopted protective measures. Substantial increases were observed in risk perceptions and self-reported protective behavior in the first weeks of the outbreak. Individual differences were based mainly on participants' age and health condition. We recommend that authorities constantly adjust their COVID-19 communication and mitigation strategies to fit public perceptions and public responses and that they tailor the information for different groups.

Keywords: 2019 novel coronavirus disease; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; attitude; communication; coronavirus disease; disease outbreaks; health behavior; knowledge; perception; respiratory infections; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; the Netherlands; trust; viruses; zoonoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information / psychology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude to Health
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • COVID-19* / psychology
  • Communicable Disease Control* / methods
  • Communicable Disease Control* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Public Health / methods
  • Public Health / standards
  • Public Opinion
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust