The European countries where people wear face masks the most – and how the UK compares

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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: A woman walks near Piccadilly Circus wearing a face mask on October 13, 2020 in London, England. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said today that the city would move into Tier 2 of the government's new covid-19 risk classification once it hits 100 new daily cases per 100,000 people, which could happen this week. The second or "high" tier of the three-tier system triggers a ban on household mixing, although pubs would remain open. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A woman walks near Piccadilly Circus in London wearing a face mask (Picture: Getty)

Face masks have become a key weapon in the fight against coronavirus, and many European countries now require citizens to wear them when out in public.

The UK was slower to adopt face coverings than several other nations but has since made them compulsory in settings such as shops and public transport.

The government launched its “hands, face, space” campaign, which urges people to wash their hands, use a mask where appropriate, and maintain social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19, in part to encourage their use.

Now, despite an initial reluctance to wear face coverings, Britons are now consistently using them in required settings.

A YouGov behaviour changes tracker has revealed the European countries where people wear face masks in public the most.

YouGov behaviour tracker face masks
People in Italy, Spain, France and the UK wear face masks in public more than the other countries. (YouGov)
People wear face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they walk past the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. As of Saturday it is mandatory to wear masks outdoors in Lazio, the region that includes Rome. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
People wear face masks in Rome. (AP)

The chart shows on 6 October Spain had the highest rate of wearing face masks in public, with 89% of people doing so.

Italy comes second with 88% of people wearing them in public.

France and the UK are third and fourth respectively with 77% and 76% of people wearing face-coverings in public.

Face-covering rules around Europe


Face coverings are compulsory in the UK in shops, supermarkets, public transport and NHS settings such as hospitals and GP surgeries.


Italy has made wearing face masks outdoors mandatory after coronavirus cases hit a five-month high last week.

The decree was approved at a cabinet meeting after a steady increase in cases over the last two months.

Several Italian regions including Lazio, where the capital Rome is located, had already made face masks mandatory outside.


Face masks are obligatory in most regions in Spain in both indoor and outdoor public spaces, even when social distancing of 1.5 metres is observed.

Watch: Supercomputer shows humidity effect on COVID-19


In France face masks in enclosed public spaces for those aged 11 and over have been compulsory since 20 July.

An increasing number of cities and regions (including Paris) have extended this to also include outdoor public spaces.


Chancellor Angela Merkel and mayors from Germany’s 11 largest cities agreed on Friday to adopt stricter anti-coronavirus measures if infections exceed a threshold of 50 cases per 100,000 population in a week.

Restrictions could include tighter rules on mask-wearing.

Currently, mask rules are set state by state, but coverings are mandatory in shops and public transportation nationwide.

YouGov tracker about avoiding crowded public spaces

A second tracker showed people in Spain chose to avoid public spaces the most, with 80% of people saying the preferred not to be around a lot of people.

Italy was second with 79%, while the UK was third with 65% and France had 64%.

Watch: How to wear a face-covering comfortably

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