Factors affecting adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 infections in the first year of the pandemic in the UK

Xuejie Ding, David M Brazel, Melinda C Mills

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8 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), including wearing face covering/masks, social distancing and working from home, have been introduced to control SARS-CoV-2 infections. We provide individual-level empirical evidence of whether adherence reduces infections.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The COVID-19 Infection Study (CIS) was used from 10 May 2020 to 2 February 2021 with 409 009 COVID-19 nose and throat swab tests nested in 72 866 households for 100 138 individuals in the labour force aged 18-64.

ANALYSIS: ORs for a positive COVID-19 test were calculated using multilevel logistic regression models, stratified by sex and time, by an index of autonomy to abide by NPIs, adjusted for various socioeconomic and behavioural covariates.

RESULTS: Inability to comply with NPIs predicted higher infections when individuals reported not wearing a face covering outside. The main effect for inability to comply was OR 0.79 (95% CI 0.67 to 0.92), for wearing face covering/masks was OR 0.29 (95% CI 0.15 to 0.56) and the interaction term being OR 1.25 (95% CI 1.07 to 1.46). The youngest age groups had a significantly higher risk of infection (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.28 to 1.82) as did women in larger households (OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.06). Effects varied over time with autonomy to follow NPIs only significant in the pre-second lockdown May-November 2020 period. Wearing a face covering outside was a significant predictor of a lower chance of infection before mid-December 2020 when a stricter second lockdown was implemented (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.73).

CONCLUSION: The protective effect of wearing a face covering/mask was the strongest for those who were the most unable to comply with NPIs. Higher infection rates were in younger groups and women in large households. Wearing a face covering or mask outside the home consistently and significantly predicted lower infection before the 2020 Christmas period and among women.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere054200
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 25-Oct-2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Masks
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology


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