Coronavirus measures likely to last at least 6 months: Survey; Most demand small business support

Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020
Amsterdam street largely abandoned due to coronavirus restrictions, 18 March 2020DedMityayDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

About 67 percent of people believe the coronavirus restrictions in place in the Netherlands will last for six months or a year, a survey of Dutch people showed. The report, released by I&O Research, showed that about a third of the public was already concerned about their personal financial situations, less than three weeks after the government began imposing stricter measures on the public to combat the spread of the virus.

This "intelligent lockdown" policy was rated as being a good or great response to the pandemic by 91 percent of people who supported the Cabinet's strategy. Researchers surveyed 2,342 Dutch people for their report.

Most think a half-year of distancing is likely, but a fourth are more upbeat

They found that 58 percent of people believed that the coronavirus measures like social distancing, bans on gatherings, and closed bars and restaurants could last for about six months. In this scenario, first presented by the government social sciences research office SCP, the economy would likely contract by up to 7.7 percent, with unemployment hitting 8 percent.

Another nine percent saw the likelihood of a darker scenario, where the physical distance measures, including school and daycare closures, could last for up to a year. That darker scenario would potentially cause a ten percent economic contraction with unemployment reaching nine percent.

Still, 26 percent of respondents were more optimistic. They saw the likelihood of measures being lifted in three months' time, with the economy recovering next year from a 1.2 percent hit.

Overall, Dutch people have been satisfied with government performance, the research showed. Some 56 percent said they were very satisfied with the Cabinet's intelligent lockdown policy, where if one person in a house presents mild symptoms then everyone in the house must remain there. About 35 percent were satisfied with this approach.

It has also led to about a fifth of people helping others in their neighborhoods, something which King Willem-Alexander, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, members of the Cabinet and service organizations have asked the public to do.

About 88 percent of respondents were split evenly in saying the government was doing a good or great job with regard to the health of Dutch citizens. 

Many want more support for small business; Some very afraid for their own pocketbooks

People were more concerned when asked about the economy, according to I&O. About six percent were very concerned about their current financial situation, and 31 percent were somewhat concerned. Roughly 35 percent were not particularly concerned, with 27 percent not at all worried.

Unsurprisingly, these figures shifted depending on the respondent's work situation. Some 81 percent of business owners with salaried staff were concerned or very concerned, and 61 percent of independent contractors and freelancers answered the same way.

The research organization found that the 78 percent of people want the government to make the rescue of small and midsized businesses an absolute top priority, a statement where another 14 percent remained neutral.

This overlapped a bit with 30 percent of people who want the rescue of large organizations like KLM and Schiphol to be a top priority, with 335 percent remaining neutral and 29 percent disagreeing either somewhat or totally.

Of all workers, temporary workers not under contract and those on a flexible contract were by far the most worried about their own situations, with between 60 and 70 percent afraid of the impact of the pandemic on their personal budgets. 

About 78 percent of government workers were not very concerned about their personal situations, which was roughly the same as those in public-private businesses.

A smaller majority of permanent staff at businesses were not very worried, with the unemployed and long-term unemployed or disabled split evenly. Over 60 percent of retirees and stay-at-home adults were largely unconcerned about their personal situations.

The impact on people's lives so far

Overall, 30 percent were fully pleased with the Cabinet's approach to domestic economic issues during the pandemic, while 44 percent were somewhat satisfied, and just three percent were totally dissatisfied. Another 14 percent were equally positive and negative about the approach.

The impact of the coronavirus measures has forced four-in-ten to work from home, and another two-in-ten to voluntarily manage their profession from inside their house.

Some 24 percent of those surveyed also said they were caring for their own children at home who would otherwise have attended school or daycare. Just three percent said they were caring someone else's children in the same situation.

Thus far, about a third have had to cancel at least one planned vacation.