How Did People Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic during Its Early Stage? A Case Study in Japan

21 Pages Posted: 13 May 2020 Last revised: 15 May 2020

See all articles by Junyi Zhang

Junyi Zhang

Hiroshima University - Mobilities and Urban Policy Lab

Date Written: May 7, 2020


With the aim of urgently providing policymakers with immediate scientific evidence about how to better inform the public about fighting against COVID-19, the author made an initial attempt to assess how people responded to this unprecedented virus during its early stages, in terms of both behaviors and attitudes. For this purpose, the author implemented a nation-wide questionnaire survey in Japan at the end of March when the country had 1,953 confirmed infection cases, in total. Valid data were collected from 1,052 residents from the whole of Japan with a balanced population distribution in terms of age, gender, and regions. Respondents were asked to report changes in their daily activity-travel behavior, long-distance trips, and other life activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their associated factors (information reliability, risk perception, attitudes about policy-making and communications with the public). Results of both aggregate and modeling (a structural equation model and a data mining approach) analyses indicate that poor communication with the public may be closely related to the spread of COVID-19 in Japan. It is also revealed that differentiated communications are necessary to encourage different types of behavioral changes.

Note: Funding: This study was funded by a budget from Hiroshima University

Declaration of Interest: No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Ethical Approval: This study was approved by the ethics committee of Hiroshima University.

Keywords: COVID-19, change in life, travel behavior, tourism, time use, energy, health, Japan, early stage of pandemic, life-oriented approach

JEL Classification: I18, I31, R20, R40, R58

Suggested Citation

Zhang, Junyi, How Did People Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic during Its Early Stage? A Case Study in Japan (May 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Junyi Zhang (Contact Author)

Hiroshima University - Mobilities and Urban Policy Lab ( email )

+81-824246919 (Phone)
+81-824246919 (Fax)


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