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Infection with the coronavirus: Most feared are other people - and door handles

07/2020, 27.03.2020

The ‘corona monitor’ by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment shows how the population in Germany perceives the current situation

Which things worry the people of Germany most about the novel coronavirus and risk of infection? They mainly see proximity to other people (81 per cent) and contaminated door handles (61 per cent) as a probable transmission pathway for the pathogen. This is demonstrated by the initial findings of the ‘corona monitor’ by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). "In future, we want to measure every week how the German population perceives the risk of the novel coronavirus," says BfR president Professor Andreas Hensel. "We hope that this representative survey will therefore give us a kind of ‘fever curve’, from which we can deduce how people perceive the risk and how they deal with it."

The respondents see a comparably high risk of infection from cash (45 per cent). By contrast, the probability of the coronavirus being transmitted via food, pets or clothing is generally perceived as being low.

32 per cent of respondents have not yet taken any measures to protect themselves or their families from being infected with the novel coronavirus. By contrast, around two-thirds state that they wish to protect themselves from infection. By far the most frequently mentioned measure is avoiding the public (social distancing). Many also rely on frequent and thorough hand washing, keeping their distance from other people, and using disinfectants. When interview partners had to decide between being able to clean their hands either with soap and water or with disinfectant, the vast majority (84 per cent) opted for soap and water. However, despite these measures, only 28 per cent are certain that they can protect themselves from an infection.

The effects to one's own health from falling ill with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 were perceived very differently. While 41 per cent expect their own health to be affected to a minor extent, 37 per cent perceive the effects as being rather large. This means that the coronavirus is currently perceived as a bigger threat than influenza.

All in all, the prescribed measures for containing the pathogen have been evaluated very positively: Over 90 per cent of respondents assess measures such as school closures, quarantine measures or a contact prohibition prescribed at the beginning of the week as being appropriate. The closure of most shops or the imposition of a curfew was assessed as being appropriate by 86 per cent and 74 per cent of respondents respectively.

The vast majority of the population (72 per cent) also feel that they are well informed about events, and stay informed through television, internet and print media. The Robert Koch Institute has been the most frequently named official body as a source of information.

The BfR is continually updating its FAQs on the topic of coronavirus, in light of the dynamically changing situation.

About the BfR-Corona-Monitor

The BfR Corona-Monitor is a recurring (multi-wave) representative survey of the German population's perception of risks from the new type of coronavirus. Since 24 March 2020, around 500 randomly selected people have been asked by telephone every Tuesday about their perception of the risk of infection and the protective measures they have taken, amongst other things. A summary of the data is regularly published on the homepage of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. More information about the method and sample can be found in publications about the BfR corona monitor.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.



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