Assessing the Public’s Perceptions of the London Borough of Hounslow’s COVID-19 Response

Sponsor: London Borough of Hounslow
Sponsor Liaison: Twm Palmer
Student Team: Theo Belmont
Diana DiTullio
Clara Dublin
Jaya Mills
Abstract: We assessed public perceptions concerning the London Borough of Hounslow’s (LBH) COVID-19 response to improve adherence to policy in future contingency plans. We created a comprehensive policy timeline to contextualize LBH initiatives and surveyed 70 residents to explore public perceptions. Survey participants perceived PPE, testing, and vaccines as accessible and policy communication as effective. Participants’ perceptions of local policies reflected the national response discourse. We recommend the LBH collect and analyze a representative survey sample and expand outreach methods.
Link: Hounslow Final IQP Report

Executive Summary

The UK’s previously lacking pandemic infrastructure meant that national and local governments had to implement new policies at breakneck speed while working with a multitude of unknown factors to keep up with the spread of COVID-19. Each wave brought new challenges in effectively controlling virus spread while protecting citizens. Now that some governments are moving into COVID-19 recovery phases, many are trying to assess their communities’ sentiments regarding pandemic policy.

Understanding public sentiment surrounding pandemic policies is vital to assessing a pandemic response. Feedback on initiatives can inform policymakers on their successes and necessary areas for improvement. Further, public perceptions directly correlate with the adherence to pandemic procedures and practices (Seale et al., 2020). Finally, public approval improves trust in the government.

The Hounslow Resilience and Contingency Planning Team (HRCPT) operates within the London Borough of Hounslow (LBH) and is responsible for the borough’s emergency planning, response, and outreach (Carey, n.d.). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the HRCPT oversaw initiatives involving personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution, outdoor spaces for social distancing, and widespread testing and vaccination sites (Curran, 2020). Additionally, the LBH drafted a response plan for future crises, which includes improving business resilience and reducing socio-economic inequality.

To create a holistic recovery plan that improves policy adherence and engagement, the LBH wanted to understand the public’s perceptions of their past COVID-19 initiatives. This project analyzed key themes in the LBH response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hounslow public’s perception of the LBH COVID-19 response.


We developed two objectives to analyze key themes in the public’s perception of the LBH COVID-19 response: first, to develop timelines of the LBH COVID-19 response to compare to the UK response, and second, to explore and report public sentiments and ideas for improvement toward LBH policies.

For the first objective, we compiled a comprehensive and interactive timeline from publicly-available sources. We grouped the contents into six categories: closures, distancing, PPE, testing, vaccines, and COVID-19 milestones to gain context on the LBH and UK COVID-19 responses.

This context not only helped our team distinguish the UK response from the LBH response but also enabled us to design survey questions about LBH initiatives.

For our second objective, we used information we gathered from a semi-structured group interview with the HRCPT to design a survey to assess how Hounslow residents perceived the effectiveness and accessibility of COVID-19 initiatives. Our in-person survey contained questions involving demographics, perception of COVID-19 policies, and perception of Hounslow-specific initiatives. We administered the surveys by distributing flyers to pedestrians, leaving posters in businesses, and conducting in-person surveys. Our sample size was 70 participants, composed of an older age group than the Hounslow borough demographics. Our main limitation was our inability to reach all demographics due to both distribution duration and language barriers.

Results & Analysis

Spanning from March 2020 to April 2022, the timelines explore the national and local responses by wave and case numbers. The comprehensive timeline allows the HRCPT to understand its policies both as a whole and specifically by wave. The timelines will directly benefit the LBH COVID-19 response evaluation framework. The staff will also use the timelines to provide context and set meeting agendas for the upcoming response debriefing meetings held within the department. By comparing the timelines of initiatives with COVID-19 cases in the borough, COVID-19 milestones, and lockdown information, the LBH can learn more about possible successes and shortcomings in restriction implementation and resource access. We found in our timeline analysis that the LBH initiatives reflected priorities in testing and vaccine access.

The key findings from our pilot survey data are outlined below:

  1. Respondents believed that the LBH COVID-19 restrictions were implemented too slowly. Qualitative data from our survey supports this Many participants perceived that the LBH preventative policies were less effective than they would have been if implemented sooner.
  2. 61% of respondents thought the LBH COVID-19 communication was effective. The majority of survey respondents thought the LBH communication of their COVID-19 regulations was generally effective. Of this approving group, most maintained that communication was very effective.
  3. Respondents perceived PPE, testing, and vaccines to be accessible.  Survey respondents strongly perceived easy accessibility to PPE, testing, and vaccines. All three had an average perceived accessibility above 4 out of 5 (representing “very accessible”). This high perceived accessibility reflects the LBH’s focus on community resource access in the second and third waves.
  4. Resource accessibility was not influenced by preferred mode of Respondents who walk, bike, or use public transportation perceived resources to be as accessible as the average car user.

Conclusions & Recommendations

Based on the findings above, we outline the following recommendations for the LBH to consider in future contingency plans.

1.     We recommend the LBH distribute a borough-wide survey and include LBH branding to increase the sample size.

Acquiring a larger and more representative sample of the Hounslow public will provide further insight into public perceptions of the LBH response. To obtain this sample, we recommend the LBH conduct a follow-up survey featuring government branding. Possible distribution methods include mail drops, social media polls, email surveys, in-person interviews, telephone surveys, and focus groups. This outreach can be done either directly by the LBH or through a hired survey distribution firm. We further recommend that the LBH collaborate with community outreach groups in distributing surveys to improve engagement within their communities. Finally, we recommend the survey be translated into multiple languages due to Hounslow’s language diversity.

2.     We recommend that the LBH expand their communication methods for their policies.

Our survey results showed that older respondents thought the LBH communication of COVID-19 policies was excellent. However, younger residents thought communication was insufficient. We recommend that the LBH use more online methods (e.g., social media) to communicate their policies to younger residents more effectively.

We maintain that our recommendations for the London Borough of Hounslow will improve response communication and implementation, and lead to greater public approval.