Mask-wearing during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Maltese context: attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and behaviour.

Authors: Gillian Martin, Maria Desira, Christina Zarb

Corresponding: Gillian Martin (

Keywords: Face masks, Malta, Covid-19 pandemic, Attitudes, Beliefs, Perceptions, Behaviour

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2020.2.01

The efficacy of any public health campaign is impacted in important ways by the level of public understanding and cooperation. The measures put in place to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus in Malta have had important influence on societal relations, with the use of face coverings arguably having the most impact. The aim of our study was to empirically explore the lived experience of wearing a mask - the perceptions, beliefs and attitudes related to the use of face- coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Maltese Islands. A mixed methods research design was used to collect data via an online survey with a convenience, non-probability sample made up of 990 respondents. Quantitative data were collected via closed ended questions supplemented by qualitative data in open text boxes. Our data, collected before the wearing of face coverings was mandatory in all public places, showed how the vast majority of participants chose to wear them, with the predominant choice being facemasks. The vast majority of respondents claimed that the wearing of face masks while interacting in public spaces (both indoor and outdoor) leads to a sense of security, with increased sense of confidence in public safety measures. Data on beliefs and knowledge are significantly associated with level of education and include the mistaken belief that a visor offers as much protection as a facemask, and that wearing a facemask reduces the amount of oxygen available to breathe. Qualitative data highlighted challenges linked to communication, heat, discomfort, anxiety about lack of oxygen, and finding it harder to breathe, besides issues related to condensation on spectacles. The negative impact at work was also flagged, with increased level of irritability, reduced levels of concentration and reduced quality of service described in the data. Though compliance to public health directives was clearly dominant within our sample, the particular challenges highlighted within the study identify areas of potential breakdown of safe practices where focused science communication on a national level would be beneficial.

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