Government recommendations during the COVID-19 epidemic in Switzerland: clarity, compliance and impact on the daily life of seniors in a population-based cohort

Swiss Med Wkly. 2022 Apr 8:152:w30161. doi: 10.4414/smw.2022.w30161. eCollection 2022 Mar 28.


Context: In March 2020, the Swiss Federal Council issued recommendations for a partial lockdown, with an emphasis on people aged 65 years and over because of their vulnerability to COVID-19. This study investigated whether seniors clearly understood the meaning of four recommendations (do not go grocery shopping; do not use public transport; avoid personal contact; stay at home), whether they complied with them, and what was the impact of the partial lockdown on their daily life, including difficulties and opportunities.

Methods: In April 2020, a questionnaire about how seniors experienced the partial lockdown was sent to the participants in the Lausanne Cohort Lc65+, a population-based study. The response rate reached 89%, with 2746 participants aged 72-86 years included in the analysis. Bivariable analyses and multivariable logistic models were used to identify sociodemographic and health-related characteristics associated with each outcome (clarity; compliance; impact).

Results: Most seniors rated the recommendations as clear (84-91%, depending on the recommendation) and complied with them (70-94%). In multivariable analyses, men were more likely to rate the recommendations as unclear. Perceiving the recommendation as unclear and having a low level of fear of the virus were associated with noncompliance. People who complied with the recommendations were more likely to experience difficulties, but also to seize opportunities during the partial lockdown.

Conclusion: Most seniors followed the recommendations and found them clearly worded. However, some subgroups, such as men and seniors who do not fear the virus, were less likely to clearly understand the recommendations. As a correct understanding is a key factor for compliance, the findings emphasise the importance of tailoring public health communications to the characteristics of the target group, and of testing whether they are correctly understood.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Cohort Studies
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Government
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Switzerland / epidemiology