Virus particle corona

Solidarity in times of a pandemic

What do people do, and why? A European comparative study

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for policymakers, public health officials, and societies. The social and economic effects are likely to be felt for years to come. This situation calls for an examination of how people react to policy measures that have been introduced, and what actions they take on their own initiative over and above the official advice by governments. What motivates citizens to follow, adapt to, or ignore, the advice of public authorities? What do they do to protect themselves, and to support others – and what roles do technologies play in this? What, or who, do people trust in these uncertain times? What do people need to feel safe at the time of crisis?

European countries compared

The project examines these important questions in different European countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The researchers use open-ended, in-depth interviews across multiple locations and moments to get a better idea of how people act, and why they act that way. 

This qualitative longitudinal study design involving ‘soft comparisons’ between countries and over a period of about six months allows us not only to identify differences and similarities in how people responded to the pandemic and the ensuing policy measures, but also why. These findings are expected to generate valuable evidence for policies for pandemic preparedness, prevention and containment in the countries under study, and beyond.

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for policymakers, public health officials, and society. The social and economic effects of the pandemic will possibly be felt for years to come. This situation has called for an examination of how people have reacted to the COVID-19 measures that have been introduced, and the actions that they have taken on their own initiative in addition to official government advice. What motivates citizens to follow, accept, or ignore the advice of public authorities? How do they protect themselves and others, and which role does technology subsequently play? What, or who, do people trust in these uncertain times? What do people require in order to feel safe during this time of crisis?

This project will examine these important questions in several European countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The researchers will use in-depth, open-ended interviews across several locations and occasions in order to gain a better idea of how people have acted and what their reasons were. 

This qualitative longitudinal study design will involve ‘soft comparisons’ between the countries and will be conducted over a period of about six months; it will allow us to identify the differences and similarities between how people have responded to the pandemic and the ensuing policy measures, and also analyse their reasons. These findings are expected to generate valuable support for pandemic preparedness, prevention and containment policies in the countries that are being investigated, and beyond.

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More information on this research study? Questions from the media may be directed to the science editor. All other questions may be directed to the researcher.

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