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The risk of coronavirus is still taken seriously

18/2020, 29.05.2020

"BfR-Corona-Monitor": Interim results of the survey after ten weeks show trends in the perception of the pandemic

On 27 March 2020 the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) published the "BfR-Corona-Monitor" for the first time. The regular survey documents how the population in Germany assesses the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and what fears people are particularly concerned about. "Even after ten surveys, it appears that the danger posed by coronaviruses is still perceived as threatening," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "The response in the media also indicates that the BfR-Corona-Monitor has proved to be a reliable compass in recent months with regard to risk perception in Germany."

An overview of important trends:

The role of the sources of infection
Right from the start, it became clear which sources the population classified as transmission routes for the novel coronavirus. Initially, 81 percent of the participants, on average 71 percent, regarded proximity to other people as the major source of infection. Door handles (48 percent) and cash (32 percent) also seem to carry a comparatively high risk of infection for many people - however, from a scientific point of view these transmission paths are negligible. The probability of transmission of the coronavirus through food, pets or clothing on the other hand is estimated to be comparatively low - in accordance with the current state of scientific knowledge.

Protection from corona
Avoiding the public in order to protect oneself or the family was mentioned as the means of choice. There was a clear upward trend in the wearing of protective clothing: While at the beginning of the study, only six percent of the respondents spontaneously stated that they would put on masks or gloves, the proportion was 34 percent in the last week of the survey. However, in the course of the study, an average of between 20 and 25 percent stated that they did not take any personal measures to protect themselves against an infection.

Despite the fact that one is not defenseless against the risk of infection, almost 30 percent are not sure whether they can protect themselves against a contagion. The proportion of people who fear major health effects of coronavirus disease is 31 percent on average, with strong fluctuations between 25 and 40 percent.

Most of the measures introduced by the Federal Government and the Länder met with approval, although for some of these measures this approval has declined significantly over time. Acceptance of restricted travel activities, cancelled events, limited customer numbers in shops and mandatory distance was comparatively stable and high. At all times, these measures were judged to be appropriate by at least 80 percent of the participants. In contrast, the positive assessment of contact restrictions, the closure of cultural institutions, restrictions in schools and day-care centres as well as border controls declined significantly in the course of the survey.

Differences between old and young
Do younger people perceive the pandemic differently from older people? The BfR-Corona-Monitor also investigated this question. The result: People aged 60 years or over are more likely than those under 40 to report that they perceive the possible impact of a corona infection on their health as strong. At the same time, the concerns about the health effects of the coronavirus are more pronounced among respondents aged 60 and over than among younger people, for whom concerns about the economic impact often outweigh the health risk.

The importance of the media
Throughout all weeks of the survey, the preferred sources of information on the corona outbreak were always television and the internet. Print media and radio proved to be of secondary importance. An age difference is also evident here: people aged 60 years or over obtain information on this topic primarily from television. In the younger age groups, however, the internet also plays a central role in this respect. With an average of 59 percent, the majority considers the media coverage to be appropriate overall, while 37 percent find it exaggerated.

What's next?
The BfR-Corona-Monitor will be continued. From 11 June 2020, the survey will be conducted every two weeks. The results will be published on the BfR website. Major change: In order to further increase accuracy, the number of respondents will be increased by 500 to a total of 1,000 persons.

The BfR is continually updating its FAQs on the topic of coronavirus.

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 novel 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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