The Effect of Governmental Health Measures on Public Behaviour During the COVID-19 Pandemic Outbreak

Document Type : Original Article


1 School of Communication, Soochow University, Suzhou, China

2 Health Inspection Institute, Health Commission of Suzhou, Suzhou, China

3 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Culture and Tourism for Digital Twin Perception Technology in Museums, Suzhou, China


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in radical changes in many aspects of life. To deal with this, each country has implemented continuous health measures from the beginning of the outbreak. Discovering how governmental actions impacted public behaviour during the outbreak stage is the purpose of this study.

This study uses a hybrid large-scale data visualisation method to analyse public behaviour (epidemic concerns, self- protection, and mobility trends), using the data provided by multiple authorities. Meanwhile, a content analysis method is used to qualitatively code the health measures of three countries with severe early epidemic outbreaks from different continents, namely China, Italy, and the United States. Eight dimensions are coded to rate the mobility restrictions implemented in the above countries.

(1) Governmental measures did not immediately persuade the public to change their behaviours during the COVID-19 epidemic. Instead, the public behaviour proceeded in a three-phase rule, which is typically witnessed in an epidemic outbreak, namely the wait-and-see phase, the surge phase and the slow-release phase. (2) The strictness of the mobility restrictions of the three countries can be ranked as follows: Hubei Province in China (with an average score of 8.5 out of 10), Lombardy in Italy (7.125), and New York State in the United States (5.375). Strict mobility restrictions are more likely to cause a surge of population outflow from the epidemic area in the short term, whereas the effect of mobility restrictions is positively related to the stringency of policies in the long term.

The public showed generally lawful behaviour during regional epidemic outbreaks and blockades. Meanwhile public behaviour was deeply affected by the actions of local governments, rather than the global pandemic situation. The contextual differences between the various countries are important factors that influence the effects of the different governments’ health measures.


Main Subjects

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Articles in Press, Corrected Proof
Available Online from 11 September 2021
  • Receive Date: 20 April 2021
  • Revise Date: 16 August 2021
  • Accept Date: 08 September 2021