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Engagement with protective behaviours in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic: a series of cross-sectional surveys (the COVID-19 rapid survey of adherence to interventions and responses [CORSAIR] study)

Publication date: 

10 Mar 2022


BMC Public Health 22, 475 (2022)


Smith LE, Potts HW, Amlȏt R, Fear NT, Michie S & Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Abstract Background Behaviour is key to suppressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining behaviour change can be difficult. We investigated engagement with hand cleaning, reducing the number of outings, and wearing a face covering over the course of the pandemic. Methods We used a series of 64 cross-sectional surveys between 10 February 2020 and 20 January 2022 (n ≈ 2000 per wave). Surveys investigated uptake of hand cleaning behaviours, out of home activity (England only, n ≈ 1700 per wave) and wearing a face covering (England only, restricted to those who reported going out shopping in the last week, n ≈ 1400 per wave). Results Reported hand cleaning has been high throughout the pandemic period (85 to 90% of participants consistently reporting washing their hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water frequently or very frequently). Out of home activity has mirrored the easing and re-introduction of restrictive measures. Total number of outings were higher in the second national lockdown than in the first and third lockdowns. Wearing a face covering increased steadily between April to August 2020, plateauing until the end of measurement in May 2021, with approximately 80% of those who had been out shopping in the previous week reporting wearing a face covering frequently or very frequently. Conclusions Engagement with protective behaviours increased at the start of the pandemic and has remained high since. The greatest variations in behaviour reflected changes to Government rules. Despite the duration of restrictions, people have continued to adopt personal protective behaviours that were intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.