During the early case of the COVID-19 outbreak, people resorted to wearing face masks to protect themselves. As face masks were only a preventive measure, the debate—whether to wear or not to wear a face mask in public—surfaced in almost every corner of a community.

  • Face mask wearing was adopted as a preventive measure to curb COVID-19 virus
  • With more than 80% of its population, China alongside other East Asian countries tops as mask-wearing nations.
  • Italy is the only country Europe with 80% mask adoption during the initial weeks
  • North American countries wear less masks than Asian countries
  • Scandinavian countries records low rates in face mask adoption
  • United Kingdom lags behind other countries in wearing mask

YouGov, a survey company, collaborated with Imperial London College to monitor the behavioral changes in response to COVID-19. For this study, YouGov has tracked a total of 21,000 respondents from 29 countries, with surveys being fielded weekly.

When the coronavirus began to spread, the study found a small percentage of people across Europe were wearing masks. China had stably worn the mask way before February, followed by a spike in Italy in March. This clearly shows that public behavior corresponds to the events and cases in their surroundings.


In comparing featured continents countries on the graphs above, the Scandinavian countries and Britain are seen as the least percentage of people wearing the mask.

Based on YouGov’s findings, most countries from the Asia and the Pacific region are the top nations with the highest percentage of people wearing masks. From March to April season, the early mask wearers adopted China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia,  India, and the Philippines.

Interestingly, Italy is the only European country joining the Asian countries above 80% of its citizens wearing masks for protection. Followed by Spain at around 70%, Germany at 60%, and France at 50%. By the end of June, mask-wearing had become widely accepted in selected European countries recording  86% for Spain, 81% for Italy, and 78% for France.


One of the obvious reasons people wear masks can either be related to people’s fear of contracting the coronavirus or abidance to regulations. The graph below visualizes countries as circles, with its size proportional to the number of cases in the country based on Johns Hopkins’ data.

The United Kingdom’s cases grew the biggest compared to countries under the 50% line. Despite the high local cases, there are only 13% of the population wearing the mask. In contrast, Asian countries with significantly lesser cases record more than 80% of its people wearing masks for health prevention.


Bloomberg published a report about the nations that mandate the use of masks. The shaded map below illustrates the level of regulation for every country. As observed, the darkest blue shade dominates the chart corresponding to places where masks are required and has a universal usage.

Meanwhile, Northern America, including countries like the United States and Canada, only recommends wearing masks or mask-wearing is under limited requirements. In America, mask-wearing has been debated associated with political party inclinations. Republican leaders advocate for mask adoption as COVID-19 cases surge in some Republican-leaning states.


For now, mask-wearing and social distancing are the usually preventive ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, the same debate whether to make it compulsory or not will eventually arise in the near future.