These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

_coronavirus 2020_

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • A new YouGov survey examines how our behaviour has changed as the pandemic unfolds.
  • Between March and May, there were significant changes in the way people led their lives.
  • British people have become less concerned with washing their hands as time has gone on.
  • People in many Asian countries prefer to wear face masks.

Has the coronavirus pandemic changed people’s behaviour? Of course it has. But now a survey from YouGov has attempted to quantify the extent and nature of that change.

Keep your distance

COVID-19 behaviour changes tracker.
Are you making an effort to avoid public places?
Image: YouGov

By late February, coronavirus had already influenced people’s desire to stay away from crowds, especially in China and Italy.

But in countries including the UK, the US, Indonesia, Thailand and Spain, steep curves show people’s increasing avoidance of crowds from February to mid-March.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Wash your hands

COVID-19 behaviour changes tracker.
Do you find yourself constantly washing your hands?
Image: YouGov

The importance of personal hygiene was one of the earliest and clearest pieces of public health advice given as coronavirus took hold. Posters, infographics and videos circulated explaining how to wash your hands.

The UK shows an interesting curve. There was a profound uptake of handwashing, up from 35% at the beginning of March to 77% by early April. But by mid-May, British interest in clean hands was definitely falling, down to 63%. It’s worth noting that in both the above charts, the curve for Sweden shows multiple rises and dips, reflecting, perhaps, that country’s divergent approach to dealing with the pandemic.

Maintain personal space

COVID-19 behaviour changes tracker.
Are you trying to avoid physical contact?
Image: YouGov

Cover your face

COVID-19 behaviour changes tracker.
Do you wear a face mask?
Image: YouGov

Working remotely

COVID-19 behaviour changes tracker.
Are you avoiding going to work?
Image: YouGov

March was the month that working patterns changed across the world, as can be seen in this chart. Of course, some jobs can’t be done remotely. Front-line and key workers – from couriers to clinicians, delivery drivers to doctors – have been keeping people safe and keeping economies moving.

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