Agata Łaszewska, Timea Helter, Judit Simon
Introducing national lockdown has been effective in containing Covid-19. However, several studies indicated negative impacts of lockdowns on the well-being and mental health of many people. In Austria, the first Covid-19-related lockdown was introduced on 16 March 2020 with most restrictions being lifted 1 month later. Seven months after that, in November 2020, the second full lockdown was implemented. The aim of this study was to compare the perceptions and experiences of the general population related to the first and second Covid-19 lockdowns in Austria.
Two waves of an online survey were conducted in May and December 2020 asking respondents about their concerns related to the Covid-19 illness, personal experiences of the lockdowns, perceptions of and compliance with imposed public health measures, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on different aspects of life during the two lockdowns. Descriptive statistics including frequency analysis were used to compare respondents’ answers collected in the two waves of the survey. T-test and chi-square tests were used to test differences between the two lockdowns.
Five hundred sixty participants were included in the first wave and a sub-sample of 134 participants in the second wave of data collection. During the second lockdown, study respondents were more concerned about their family members contracting Covid-19 when compared with the first lockdown. Compliance with public health measures was overall lower during the second lockdown, although it varied according to the type of the measure. Closure of schools was seen as the least essential restriction during the second lockdown, while wearing masks gained additional approval between the first and the second lockdown. Larger negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on friendships, leisure activities, education and community were reported during the second lockdown.
The study found that the extended duration of the pandemic and recurring lockdowns restricting freedom of movement and social contacts appear to have caused significant disruptions to many areas of life. Furthermore, declining adherence to most public health measures over time raises a question about the effectiveness of future lockdown measures.