People who wear a mask or face covering when out in public are 13 times more likely to adhere to social distancing measures, German researchers have said.

A team from the University of Erfurt have carried out on a study involving almost 7,000 people to understand people’s views on protecting against the spread of COVID-19.

Their findings suggested that those who wore a face mask were far more likely to follow guidelines. They were seven times more likely to wash their hands and 20 times more likely to avoid shaking hands with others.

Leady study author Dr Cornelia Betsch said their findings provide “evidence that a mandatory mask policy is an effective, fair, and socially responsible solution to curb coronavirus”.

At the moment in the UK, people must wear face coverings when on public transports, all shops, hair salons and places of worship. In Germany face masks are compulsory on public transport and while shopping and in France they are mandatory in public.

The researchers said: “While uptake under a voluntary policy is reasonably high, it is still not sufficient to meet these required thresholds.

“Importantly, since mask wearing is a social contract, high uptake is necessary to prevent stigmatisation.

“Participants who reported wearing a mask frequently in their everyday life perceived greater warmth toward others who also wear a mask than toward others who do not.”

The researchers are urging all governments to introduce a mandatory mask policy to ensure as many people as possible cover their faces when out in public in a bid to stop the spread.

The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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