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Compliance, busyness and social distancing during the requirement to wear a face mask

People wear a face mask if they have to and they wear it correctly. However, the requirement to wear a face mask does not lead to less busyness and also not to more or less violations of the 1.5 metre social distancing rule, reveals research carried out by NSCR on behalf of the safety regions Amsterdam-Amstelland and Rotterdam-Rijnmond. From 5 to 31 August, a pilot scheme that made wearing a face mask compulsory was realised in eight areas in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

By analysing images from security cameras in the face mask areas before and after the requirement to wear face masks and comparing these with areas where there was no such requirement, people’s behaviour could be accurately described. The research examined the wearing of face masks, busyness and changes in busyness, and compliance with the 1.5 metre rule after the requirement to wear face masks had been introduced. In addition, by means of street observations by field workers, street interviews and focus groups, NSCR investigated what the public thought about the requirement to wear face masks and how people who worked in the face mask zones experienced the requirement.

The most important conclusions:

  • The research revealed that the majority of people in the areas with a requirement to wear a face mask did actually wear one and that the introduction of the requirement led to a rise in the wearing of face masks: from 55% at the start of the pilot to 75% at the end. This rise did not occur in the areas without a face mask requirement.
  • 67% of people wore the face mask in the correct manner: covering both nose and mouth.
  • Knowledge about the requirement to wear a face mask did not increase or decrease during the pilot period. Older people were better informed. Tourists were significantly less well-informed. People in Rotterdam were less well-informed than people in Amsterdam. People interviewed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam had the same attitude towards the requirement to wear a face mask. Residents of the areas with a face mask requirement were more positive about the requirement than visitors. People working in areas with a face mask requirement were more negative about the requirement than visitors.
  • The busyness in areas with a face mask requirement did not differ from the busyness before the introduction of the face mask requirement. Also in the areas without a face mask requirement no change in busyness was observed.
  • People regularly violate the 1.5 m rule. This was primarily associated with busyness, both in the face mask zones and in the areas without the requirement to wear face mask.
  • The wearing of a face mask does not demonstrably contribute to better or worse compliance with the 1.5 metre rule both in areas with and without a requirement to wear a face mask.

Publication details and further reading

Lindegaard, M.R., Liebst, L.S., Thomas, J., Ejbye-Ernst, P., van Reemst, L. & van Doormaal, N. (2020). Resultaten van de mondkapjesplicht: naleving, drukte en social distancing in Amsterdam & Rotterdam. (In Dutch) NSCR, Amsterdam.

Prof. Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard

Senior Researcher

Peter Ejbye-Ernst MSc

PhD Candidate

Dr Lisa van Reemst

Postdoc Researcher

Nick van Doormaal MSc

PhD Candidate

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