Analysis of Precautionary Face Masking and Social Distancing for COVID-19 prevention in the UAE: A Social Cognitive Random Utility Modeling Approach

Oct 04, 2020


Published in: Interdisciplinary Working Papers

/ Ibrahim Niankara

Following the numerous studies reporting on the value of face masking (FM) and social distancing (SD) as non-pharmaceutical control measures for curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, and the subsequent adoption of these measures by the UAE ministry of health and health authorities as part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this study introduced a Random Utility based Social Cognition Model (RUSCM) to analyze individual’s adherence to the two precautionary measures of face masking and social distancing in public, and their determinant factors in the UAE. We achieved this using a cross-sectional sample of 1109 respondents’ attitudes and perceptions towards COVID-19 and its prospective vaccine in United Arab Emirate (UAE), which was collected online between July 4th and August 4th 2020 using the snowball sampling method. Our findings revealed significant spatial heterogeneity in individuals' adherence to FM and SD measures in public. Indeed, compared to their counterparts living in the other five remaining Emirates, Abu Dhabi residents are found to be 38.5% and 29.4% more likely to FM and SD in public, while Dubai residents show 65.3% and 47.7% more likelihood of FM and SD in public. Although no income gradient is found in FM nor SD behaviors, we find that individuals anticipating the prospective COVID-19 vaccine to be affordable are respectively 22.7% and 39.1% less likely to FM and SD in public, than their counterparts who perceive cost as a significant barrier to vaccine uptake. Conversely, we find a gender based gradient in individuals' adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures in public, with females showing respectively 28.5% and 28.8% greater likelihood of FM and SD than their male counterparts. Moreover, among the various dimensions of life (professional, family, and Social), the latest dimension appears to hold the greatest impact on individuals' likelihood of FM and SD in public; at respectively 43.1% and 28.9% more for each level increase in awareness of COVID-19 impact on one’s social life. Finally, compared to individuals' relying on other sources of information, those relying mostly on UAE government's website, and on general internet search are respectively 47% and 27.3% more likely to FM in public; although no significant relative difference is found in SD likelihood from these different sources of information.

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