Why the Dutch quickly fall back into pre-pandemic behaviour

Vijver Campus Woudestein - Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
Iris van den Broek

Now that society is as good as open again, the majority of the Dutch will quickly fall back on the social behaviour they displayed before the pandemic, thinks Inge Merkelbach, behavioural scientist at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). "Seeking each other out is inherent in our humanity. To change this permanently, more is needed than this pandemic", she says in newpaper ‘Reformatorisch Dagblad’.

The face mask can be thrown away, keeping your distance is no longer compulsory and the hospitality and cultural sectors no longer have to close at 10 pm. Those were the most important measures that Minister Kuipers (Public Health) announced last Tuesday, which will take effect on 25 February.

With the arrival of the relaxations, Merkelbach points out that corona will be less and less visible in the public domain. "The arrows on the floor that indicate a walking direction will go away, as will the chequered ribbons that point out to keep a distance. And what's more: seeking each other out is inherent in our humanity. To change that permanently it will take more than this pandemic."

Responding to reason

If restrictions are imposed again in the future because of a new virus variant, the government will have to explain very well why it would again restrict the freedom of the Dutch, Merkelbach says. "As the pandemic progressed, new decisions were constantly being made, reversed and adjusted. It's important for the future to clearly explain what situation requires what measure and to act consistently. This means not only responding to the fear and sense of urgency of the Dutch people, but also to their reason, their intelligence. Then people will know where they stand, and restrictions will not come out of the blue. And that is more important than ever in terms of compliance and motivation.”

More information

Read the full article at Reformatorisch Dagblad (in Dutch). 

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