Behavioural insights and attitudes on community masking during the initial spread of COVID-19 in Hong Kong

V C W Tam, S Y Tam, M L Khaw, H K W Law, C P L Chan, S W Y Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Community face mask use during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has considerably differed worldwide. Generally, Asians are more inclined to wear face masks during disease outbreaks. Hong Kong has emerged relatively unscathed during the initial outbreak of COVID- 19, despite its dense population. Previous infectious disease outbreaks influenced the local masking behaviour and response to public health measures. Thus, local behavioural insights are important for the successful implementation of infection control measures. This study explored the behaviour and attitudes of wearing face masks in the community during the initial spread of COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Methods: We observed the masking behaviour of 10 211 pedestrians in several regions across Hong Kong from 1 to 29 February 2020. We supplemented the data with an online survey of 3199 respondents’ views on face mask use. Results: Among pedestrians, the masking rate was 94.8%; 83.7% wore disposable surgical masks. However, 13.0% wore surgical masks incorrectly with 42.5% worn too low, exposing the nostrils or mouth; 35.5% worn ‘inside-out’ or ‘upside-down’. Most online respondents believed in the efficacy of wearing face mask for protection (94.6%) and prevention of community spread (96.6%). Surprisingly, 78.9% reused their mask; more respondents obtained information from social media (65.9%) than from government websites (23.2%). Conclusions: In Hong Kong, members of the population are motivated to wear masks and believe in the effectiveness of face masks against disease spread. However, a high mask reuse rate and errors in masking techniques were observed. Information on government websites should be enhanced and their accessibility should be improved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalHong Kong medical journal (香港醫學雜誌)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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