Since face masks are mandatory to wear (introduced in a second step after implementing the rules that included physical and social distancing) in some places I had the feeling that some people do not always keep to the key rules of physical distancing in such detail as before to support the reduction in the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Have you observed something similar?

Of course, my post is not intended to debate the importance or the methods in place to help keep people safe in the time of a pandemic. However, I think it is worth a thought and the article I am referencing details how it's not one or the other, masks or social distancing, but rather the combination of these things as well as following the guidance we have been provided. 

I was searching for information regarding my "observation" to see if it has been confirmed in a scientific experiment or documented elsewhere, and if so what’s behind this behavior... which brought me to this article that highlights "risk compensation".

Risk compensation during COVID-19: The impact of face mask usage on social distancing. by Daniel Read and his team from the Warwick Business School.

" We tested for risk compensation related to mask usage during the Covid-19 pandemic in two online experiments that investigated whether either wearing a mask or seeing others wearing masks reduced physical distancing.....

Consistent with risk compensation, we found that participants indicated they would stand, sit or walk closer to the stranger when either of them was wearing a mask. This form of risk compensation was stronger for those who believed masks were effective at preventing, catching, or spreading Covid -19, and for younger (18-40 years) compared to older (over 65 years) participants."

For more details on the experiments conducted and the interpretation of the results/ outcome read this very interesting article.

Thanks to Daniel and his team for this really interesting experiment and results!

I think there is a general learning from this article we have to consider when we implement solutions to protect the health and the safety of our employees, visitors and customers..... the potential of risk compensating behavior.

I understand that risk compensating behavior is difficult to predict as there are so many factors that can influence this.... however ongoing monitoring of the implemented rules are followed and analyzing of the data may point us in the right direction? In addition, ongoing training and reinforcement could help us in preventing risk compensating behavior. Thoughts?

Please also have a look at this nice article from Ian Randall