Conducting face-to-face surveys during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted almost all face-to-face survey operations worldwide, given the virus’s health risks and associated mobility restrictions. Although phone-based surveys have been used as an alternative, they have proven insufficient and unable to replace the in-person field operations required by the large-scale complex surveys that remain at the core of national statistical systems.

Sistemas Integrales has designed and implemented rigorous protocols and good practices to enable the continuous production of high-quality and timely data while protecting respondents and field staff involved in face-to-face interviewing. These protocols, which are being currently implemented in ongoing surveys, are implemented across the survey preparation, fieldwork and post-fieldwork stages. The most salient measures are listed below:

  • Instructive material about COVID-19 is distributed to all survey staff.
  • Interviewer training is held online to avoid crowding and prevent contagion.
  • The survey staff is PCR-tested two days before fieldwork launch and periodically throughout fieldwork. Those who test positive are automatically excluded from the work.
  • It is mandatory to use masks, face shields, latex gloves and protective suits throughout the entire field period.
  • Interviewers must wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after every interview.
  • Interviewers are required to observe social distancing at all times. This includes not shaking hands or having any physical contact with any respondent.
  • Interviewers are barred from accepting any refreshments.
  • Vehicles are disinfected at least twice a day and no strangers are allowed inside vehicles.
  • Interviewers who have a high temperature, cough, or any other COVID-19 symptoms are mandated to self-quarantine and are monitored.
  • Once fieldwork is finalized, all interviewers and supervisors are PCR-tested and mandated to quarantine at home for fourteen days.

Compliance with these protocols is closely monitored through callbacks to the interviewed households and through mystery respondents.