In Bangladesh, IPA collaborates with the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). IPA has conducted research focused on entrepreneurship and private sector development, migration, health, sanitation, and other areas. Our work has provided timely data on the forced displacement and migration of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, IPA researchers conducted the first large-scale randomized evaluation on the efficacy of using face masks in a real-world setting.
The Impact of Mask Distribution and Promotion on Mask Uptake and COVID-19 in Bangladesh
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A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that face masks can protect against COVID-19. There is, however, limited rigorous evidence on the extent to which mask-wearing is effective in reducing COVID-19 in a real-life situation with imperfect and inconsistent mask use. In Bangladesh, researchers and IPA partnered with Bangladeshi policymakers and a local NGO to design and evaluate various strategies to increase mask-wearing and assess the impact of community mask-wearing on SARS-CoV-2 infection rates.They found that a four-part intervention (the “NORM model”) tripled mask usage (a 29- percentage-point increase), and increased physical distancing by 5 percentage points.
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Further, this increase in mask-wearing reduced symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. When surgical masks were employed, 1 in 3 symptomatic infections were avoided for individuals 60+ years old, the age group that faces the highest risk of death following infection. This was the first large-scale randomized evaluation to demonstrate the effectiveness of masks in a real-world setting.