Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, politicians and commentators have often adopted a war-like rhetoric, invoking a language more often associated to terrorist violence, rather than epidemics. Although COVID-19 represents primarily a public health emergency, not inflicted by human agency, there are similarities in the type and scope of regulations governments have introduced to tackle the virus and to respond to terrorist attacks. In this article, we first ask what we can learn from the extant studies on the attitudinal and emotional consequences of terrorism, relating it to recent research on public opinions in the wake of COVID-19, in order to better understand and predict how the pandemic will influence public sentiments. We then analyze how attitudes can shift when a critical event not only threatens the population of a country as a whole, but directly affects its political leader. Leveraging recently released survey data, we show how the announcement of Angela Merkel’s quarantine significantly dampened the trust in and the credibility of her government, although this effect was short-lived.