COVID-19 Data Analysis-2 (social-distancing) print   
JMF  Email [2020-06-17 21:59:01]  HIT : 229  


Social-distancing Behavior in Global Cities


1. Background


Another presentation during the media briefing held by the Joongmin Foundation on May 27th was regarding political polarization in South Korea and the United States, specifically focusing on people's reliability on their central governments and their social-distancing behavior amid COVID-19. One of the interesting results was that the study found out the similarity of peoples' polarized trust in their governments whereas differences in distancing behavior. To illustrate, although the South Korean conservatives do not highly trust the current government, they are actively participating in the social-distancing campaign. On the contrary, Republican supporters in the United States are highly skeptical of the Trump administration and also have little involvement in social-distancing. This means while South Korea is integrated with social performance, the United States has a difference in distancing behavior along with political ideology. 

As COVID-19 became a pandemic crisis, it is necessary for every single individual to take safety measures and the global society requires people's unified cooperation. However, as seen in the US-Korean case, some countries are successful in promoting all citizens' distancing practice, while some are not. To identify the universal features of people's social distancing behavior, the Joongmin foundation has conducted a survey on 30 global cities for comparative analysis. In order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) asked people to take precautions for reducing the chances of being infected or spreading the virus.[1] According to the several protecting measures announced by the WHO, the questionnaire included eight items regarding social-distancing behavior which are washing hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, wearing masks, avoiding social events, avoiding public transit, eating less outside, touching less face, and shopping less.


2. Research Topic

The WHO stressed that avoiding going to crowded places as people are more likely to come into close contact with someone that has COVID-19 and it is more difficult to maintain a physical distance of 1 meter in crowds.[2] Besides, it emphasized the use of masks as a part of prevention and control measures that can limit the spread of the disease.[3] Since the 8 options in the questionnaire can be categorized into an individual-level and communal-level of people's consciousness, the study selected mask-wearing and avoiding social events to evaluate global citizens' distinguished distancing behavior. In this section, we are going to empirically discover how people's distancing practices differ based on cultures, regions, and religions.

3. Questionnaire Used

Questions we used and analyzed are as follows: “How much effort have you put into preventing infection of the COVID-19 by doing the following actions? 1. Washing your hands more often 2. Using alcohol-based sanitizer more often 3. Wearing a face mask 4. Avoiding social events (e.g., parties, family gatherings) 5. Avoiding public transit 6. Eating out less at restaurant 7. Touching less your face 8. Shopping for groceries less often”

The answers consist of a 5-point scale, with higher scores indicating more actively participating in a social-distancing campaign and lower scores demonstrating less sincerely putting an effort to prevent the disease. 

4. Major Outcomes

Analyzing the eight behaviors, we detected the similarities in seven cities located in Southern Europe and Latin America. Citizens in this region are practicing a low level of social-distancing, and the trend line in Figure 1 shows that they barely refrain from, especially, avoiding social events and eating out less at restaurants. The finding led us to discover the distancing behavior pattern in global cities.


 Figure 1: Trend line of social-distancing behavior in Southern Europe/Latin America

For simplifying and visualizing the behavior pattern among global citizens, the study selected wearing masks as an individual level and avoiding social events for a communal level of social-distancing behavior. When we put distancing scores of 30 global cities in the scatter plot, as seen in Figure 2, groupings of the cities with similar cultural backgrounds were possible. Besides, the figure reflects both individual and social levels of efforts are changing in the same direction. To be specific, Southern Europe and Latin American cities show the least exercise of wearing masks and evading social gatherings. On the other hand, Southeast Asian and South Asian cities present the most active participation of social-distancing behavior. Furthermore, high engagement of wearing masks and avoiding social events is seen in most of the Asian countries. 


  Figure 2: Scatter plot - social distancing behavior of 30 global cities

Figure 3 shows the specified scores of social-distancing behavior in terms of avoiding social gatherings and wearing masks in 30 global cities. First of all, most of the countries can be found to have a similar pattern in the social-distancing practice in both individual and communal levels. For instance, 
Southern European and Latin American cities are conducting the lowest level of social-distancing behavior with all cities under point 2 in avoiding social events and wearing masks. Subsequently, German-speaking cities in Germany (Berlin) and Austria (Vienna) are showing the least participating in the social-distancing after Latin countries. 2.42 and 2.53 points are shown in Berlin in avoiding social events and wearing masks, respectively. Similarly, 2.25 and 2.23 points are noticed in Vienna. Next, Northern European cities such as Stockholm and Oslo are involving in physical distancing with over point 3 on a social level and above point 2 on a personal level.

On the contrary, Southeast Asian cities like Manilla, Singapore, Jarkata together with New Delhi are presenting the highest scores in avoiding social events and wearing masks. Northeast Asia and America are followed, with all cities score above point 4, except Seoul scores 3.83 in ponstponing the social gatherings. 

Lastly, the Commonwealth realm and French-speaking cities are demonstrating high engagement in avoiding social events, whereas relatively low commitment in wearing masks. To be specific, London and Sydney, Toronto and Paris scored over point 4 in the social-level of distancing behavior, but only 2 and 3 points in wearing masks. Wellington, by contrast, scored around point 3 in both practicings. 

     ▲ Figure 3: Scores of social distancing behavior scores of 30 global cities 


5. Further tasks

More detailed ad explanative research should be conducted with the questions below, but not limited to: 

  • Why there is a similar pattern of social-distancing behavior among similar cultured cities? Whether there is a relationship between the culture and the social-distancing behavior or not? 

  • Are there any contributing factors to determine people's social-distancing behavior, such as economic status, government's administrative ability, and the geographic proximity with China?

  • Why there is a disparity among different cities' social-distancing behavior?
  • Why Southeast Asian countries mostly put a sincere endeavor to prevent COVID-19, whereas Southern Europe and Latin American countries least engaged in social-distancing?
  • Why London and Sydney have a huge gap between social-level and an individual-level of social distancing?



[1] WHO. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. 29 April 2020. (2020.06.21)
[2] Ibid.
[3] WHO interim guidance. Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19. 5 June 2020. 

     74. The First Media Briefing on COVID-19 Survey
     46. 3rd Year Seminar of Global Research Network 2017-2020