Surveys show one in three adults in South Africa does not wear a mask when leaving home

February 17, 2021

Almost a third of adults in South Africa do not wear a face mask every time they leave home, despite public consensus and scientific evidence to be broadly converging around the practice of wearing a face mask in public places as an effective measure to reduce the spread of the virus.

The University of Johannesburg and Human Sciences Research Council Covid-19 democracy survey conducted from April to September asked respondents whether, and how regularly, they wear a face mask when leaving their homes. Full compliance was low (37%) early in April during the initial weeks of lockdown level 5. It increased to 50% of adults by the end of April. The practice peaked and stabilised at just over 70% in July, August and September. Among the other 30% of adults, 20% said that they wear a mask “most of the time” and about 7%, “some of the time”. Only 2% revealed that they never (or not often) wear a mask and 1% did not want to say.

According to the online Imperial College London Survey, these statistics compare favourably with those collected during the same period in China (59%), the UK (64%), United States (73%) and Brazil (90%). Conversely, the proportion was 12% or lower in all Scandinavian countries, with only 2% in Sweden always wearing a face mask when in a public place.

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