Face masks are a source of tension for a significant number of people, a study found.
One in eight people – the equivalent of about 6 million people – have either been confronted or confronted someone about wearing a face mask, a survey found.
The study on attitudes among the general public, carried out by King’s College London and Ipsos Mori, found there had been a ‘big shift’ between May and July.
The poll of 2,237 UK residents aged 16 to 75, found almost half of parents (48 per cent) felt comfortable with their children returning to school, compared to a third in May.
The survey questioned 609 parents in July and compared the findings with 590 interviewed in May.
The proportion who said they were very uncomfortable with doing so halved – to 15 per.
The poll also asked about mask-wearing at a time when the Government had announced that face coverings would be compulsory in shops but the measure had not yet come into force.
Some 70 per cent of people reported wearing a mask in July, up from 19 per cent in April, the study found.
There was widespread belief that face masks help reduce the spread of coronavirus, with 81 per cent of the population thinking it is true and 9 per cent thinking it is false.
However, one in ten believe face masks are bad for your health and 13 per cent think they are just a way for the Government to control people.
This increases to one in five 16 to 24-year-olds (21 per cent) and a quarter of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups (25 per cent).
A third (34 per cent) of those use WhatsApp as a main source of information think it is a way of the Government exerting control, as do 30 per cent who rely on YouTube.
Overall, one in eight people (13 per cent) has been confronted or reported to authorities for not wearing a face mask, or have confronted or reported other people.
If a vaccine or treatment does not become available, 77 per cent consider it acceptable that people will be required to wear face masks outside their home over the long term – up from 67 per cent in May.
Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: ‘The large majority of the public have now come round to the idea of wearing face masks – a rapid change in both behaviour and belief, given how recently ago they seemed like an extreme measure and there was such uncertainty over their effectiveness in advice from Government and elsewhere.
‘But face masks are also proving a source of tension for a significant minority.
‘One in eight survey respondents say they’ve been involved in either confrontations or reports to the authorities about not wearing them – and, while this is a minority of the UK population, it is equivalent to around six million people.
‘More generally, though, ‘Covid-secure’ behaviours are becoming embedded for many of us and, while the public say they’re still being cautious, there are some signs that people are feeling more at ease about a loosening of the restrictions, with parents in particular now much more likely to say they’re comfortable with their children returning to school.’