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Why some countries wear face masks and others don't

Mask Discrimination and Shortages

Due to a shortage of masks, people are reusing them, or buying used ones from the black market, or making homemade ones, which are essentially useless.

Strangely enough, wearing a mask also results in being discriminated in many Asian countries, and cases of racism in the west.

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Why some countries wear face masks and others don't

Why some countries wear face masks and others don't

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52015486

bbc.com

5

Key Ideas

Wearing Masks

Due to the pandemic scare, many countries have enforced measures like social distancing, closure of transport options to decrease mobility and stay-at-home orders. These policies come in the shape of humble requests, advice or strict orders.

Some countries are embracing masks, but others are shunning them. This can be due to different government directives and medical advice, but strangely enough, also due to the unique cultures and history.

WHO Policy On Masks

The Official WHO policy until recently on masks was that they are to be worn by those who are sick and those who are taking care of the sick (doctors and nurses) or are at potential hazardous zones (like airports).

Experts suggest that a mask is not reliable protection while stressing on frequent hand washing.

Cultural Complexity

  • In Asian countries, we now see masks been worn by the general public and they are seen as safer and more considerate. These are the same countries where there have been serious outbreaks before and whose memories are still fresh and painful in the people.
  • The visibility of the mask acts as a visual reminder for everyone around, a sort of behavioral nudge. A mask makes us and others more aware of the situation. In crowded areas (like the Subway), if everyone is wearing a mask, the risk of transmission is lower.

    Mask Discrimination and Shortages

    Due to a shortage of masks, people are reusing them, or buying used ones from the black market, or making homemade ones, which are essentially useless.

    Strangely enough, wearing a mask also results in being discriminated in many Asian countries, and cases of racism in the west.

    The Asymptomatic Danger

    To get an idea of just how worrying this new virus is, and how important it is to be protected, note that according to a report in a Chinese newspaper, thousands if not millions of people are potentially infected with this virus, and are infecting others, without showing any outward symptoms.

    These undocumented cases, with mild or no symptoms, were significantly contagious and could be responsible for nearly 80% of the cases.

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    Protection By Face Masks

    Due to the Wuhan virus spreading across the world, the use of face masks might seem a good means of protection.

    The N95 mask, which is a heavy-duty mask offers better protection (95% of air...

    Protect Yourself Wisely

    • Cloth masks, which are reusable and washable, offer no real protection while being potentially harmful in case there is any moisture retention or dirt in them due to their being reused.
    • It is a good practice to wear a mask all the time, especially if you have any respiratory illness.
    • It is advisable to be careful while removing your mask, as a mere touch of your hands on the front of the mask can contaminate it.
    • It is also advisable not to touch your face or nose too much.
    • Constantly and frequently wash your hands, all year round, and get a flu shot, as it is flu season. While a flu shot is not a protection against the virus, it is still advisable to get one.

    The need to remain in quarantine

    The last three months have been extremely difficult for the entire world since the new virus made its presence known. People are requested to remain in quarantine worldwide in order to enable the h...

    Health and the economic systems

    During these dark days of the pandemic, countries chose to respond differently in front of their common enemy: while China made a goal out of saving as many lives as possible, the US seems to have decided on prioritizing the economic system over the health care one.

    Our perception of the new virus

    When faced with a danger like the current virus, individuals tend to have a reaction of whether extreme fear or one of denial. 

    These reactions could be explained through a number of well-known facts such as our tendency to take into account the first-order effects, rather than the second- or third-order ones, the overall mentality which is mostly linear, not exponential and the focus on one-off solutions rather than trying to refine routines.

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    The trade-offs

    The trade-offs

    Transit agencies around the world are wrestling with how to bring riders back safely while considering the financial and public health trade-offs. Simply restricting the number of passengers ...

    Available strategies

    • In Asia and Europe, where some cities have already reopened, public transit systems are experimenting with cutting bus capacity, timed ticketing and checking riders' temperatures.
    • In Paris, officials mandate face masks for riders and will limit the number of seats available.
    • Transit officials in London have added social distancing markers.
    • China is using government surveillance, where citizens must download software onto their smartphones that indicates their health status.
    • In China, cutting the capacity of buses is enforced with onboard cameras. Chinese officials also dispense hand sanitizer at transit hubs.

    • Authorities in Hong Kong have added robots that spray a hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect train cars.

    • In Beijing, officials are testing a "subway by appointment" system during peak hours.

    • To reduce rush hour traffic, major employers in Asia and Europe have brought workers back on rotating weekday schedules, provided them private transportation, and temporarily housed them within walking distance of their offices.

    The risk of contagion

    The risk of contagion on the subway is reasonably high. Its an enclosed space, poorly ventilated and have high foot traffic.

    The subway will have to regain the trust of riders. The move to shut down the subway for four hours every night for disinfecting trains, equipment and stations is the first move to safeguard the system. Halting the service at night will also provide time to test new, more efficient disinfecting technologies.