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In Journal of medical Internet research ; h5-index 88.0

BACKGROUND : The COVID-19 cases resurged around the world in the second half of 2020. Not much is known about the change of public responses to containment measures from the initial outbreak to resurgence. Monitoring public responses is crucial to inform policy measures to prepare for COVID-19 resurgence.

OBJECTIVE : To assess and compare public responses towards containment measures during the initial outbreak and resurgence of COVID-19 epidemic in China.

METHODS : We collected all COVID-19 related posts from Sina Weibo (China's Twitter) during the initial outbreak in China and resurgence in Beijing. With a Python script, we constructed subsets of Weibo posts focusing on three containment measures: lockdown, test-trace-isolate, and suspension of gatherings. Baidu's open source sentiment analysis model, and Latent Dirichlet Allocation topic modeling, a widely-used machine learning algorithm, were used to assess the public's engagement, sentiment, and frequently discussed topics on each containment measure.

RESULTS : A total of 8,985,221 Weibo posts were collected. In China, the containment measures evolved from the fully lockdown for general population during the initial outbreak, to a more targeted response strategy for high-risk population during COVID-19 resurgence. Between the initial outbreak and resurgence, average daily proportion of Weibo posts with negative sentiments decreased from 57% to 47% for lockdown, from 56% to 51% for test-trace-isolate, and from 55% to 48% for suspension of gathering. Among the top 3 frequently discussed topics on lockdown measure, discussions on containment measures accounting for around 32% in both periods, but the second top topic shifted from expressing negative emotions (11%) to its impacts on daily lives or work (26%). The public expressed the high level of panic (21%) in the initial outbreak but virtually zero panic (1%) in the resurgence. The more targeted test-trace-isolation measure got the greatest support (60%) among all three containment measures in the initial outbreak, and its supporting rate reached 90% during the resurgence.

CONCLUSIONS : Compared to the initial outbreak, the public expressed less engagement and less negative sentiment on containment measures, and were more supportive towards containment measures during the resurgence. The targeted test-trace-isolate strategies were more acceptable for the public. When COVID-19 resurges, more targeted test-trace-isolate strategies for high-risk population should be promoted to balance epidemic control and its impacts on daily lives and the economy.


Zhou Xinyu, Song Yi, Jiang Hao, Wang Qian, Qu Zhiqiang, Zhou Xiaoyu, Jit Mark, Hou Zhiyuan, Lin Leesa