Reuse of face masks among adults in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic

Linda Yin King Lee, Issac Chun Wing Chan, Owen Pak Man Wong, Yaki Hoi Ying Ng, Crystal Kit Ying Ng, Max Hin Wa Chan, Joe Ka Chun Ng, Hailey Hei Tung Koo, Suk Ting Lam, Ada Cho Wai Chu, Rachel Yuen Shan Wong, Heidi Po Ying Leung, Angel Lok Ching Pun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, over 99% of adults in Hong Kong use face masks in public. With the limited supply of face masks in the market and the uncertainty about the future development of COVID-19, reusing face masks is a legitimate way to reduce usage. Although this practice is not recommended, reusing face masks is common in Hong Kong. This study aimed to examine the practice of reusing face masks among adults in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic and its association with their health beliefs toward this health crisis. METHODS: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted. A quota sample of 1000 adults was recruited in Hong Kong in April 2020. Guided by the Health Belief Model, the subjects were invited to answer questions on their practice of reusing face masks and health beliefs toward COVID-19 through telephone interview. Their practice on reuse, storage, and decontamination of used face masks were summarized by descriptive statistics. The difference in health beliefs between the subjects who reused and did not reuse face masks was examined by conducting an independent t test. The association between health beliefs and reuse of face masks was determined by conducting a logistic regression analysis. RESULTS: One-third (n = 345, 35.4%) of the subjects reused face masks in an average of 2.5 days. Among them, 207 subjects stored and 115 subjects decontaminated their used face masks by using various methods. The subjects who reused face masks significantly perceived having inadequate face masks (t = 3.905; p <  0.001). Having a higher level of perception of having inadequate face masks increased the likelihood of reusing face masks (OR = 0.784; CI 95%: 0.659-0.934; p = 0.006). CONCLUSION: Despite having 90 face masks in stock, the adults who reused face masks significantly perceived that they had inadequate face masks. Concerted effort of health care professionals, community organizations, and the government will improve individuals' practice in use of face masks and alleviate their actual and perceived feeling of having inadequate face masks, which lead them to reuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1267
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Face mask
  • Hong Kong


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