Public health risk communication through the lens of a quarantined community: Insights from a coronavirus hotspot in Germany.

Licht A, Wetzker W, Scholz J, Scherag A, Weis S, Pletz MW, Bauer M, Dickmann P (2023) Public health risk communication through the lens of a quarantined community: Insights from a coronavirus hotspot in Germany. PLoS One 18(10), e0292248.


Background: Quarantine is one of the most effective interventions to contain an infectious disease outbreak, yet it is one of the most disruptive. We investigated the quarantine of an entire village to better understand risk communication requirements for groups.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional, mixed-methods survey study on a single cohort of adult residents in Neustadt am Rennsteig, Germany, six weeks after the removal of a 14-day mandatory community quarantine. The survey response rate was 33% (289/883 residents).

Findings: Survey participants reported a lack of information on the quarantine implementation process. What authorities communicated was not necessarily what residents desired to know. While inhabitants used social media and telephones to communicate with each other, the official information sources were regional radio, television, newspapers and official websites. Public health authorities did not employ social media communication to engage with their communities. Despite a lack of information, the majority of respondents stated that they had complied with the quarantine and they expressed little sympathy for those who violated the quarantine. After lifting the quarantine, many respondents continued to avoid places where they suspected a significant risk of infection, such as family and friends' homes, doctor's offices and grocery stores.

Interpretation: The survey participants utilised existing social networks to disseminate vital information and stabilise its group identity and behaviour (quarantine compliance). The authorities communicated sparsely in a unidirectional, top-down manner, without engaging the community. Despite the lack of official information, the social coherency of the group contributed to considerate and compliant conduct, but participants expressed dissatisfaction with official leadership and asked for more attention.

Conclusion: Public health risk communication must engage with communities more effectively. This necessitates a deeper comprehension of groups, their modes of communication and their social needs.


Sebastian Weis


doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0292248

PMID: 37824455