In some countries, people wear masks, in others they do not. Why?

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In some countries, people wear masks, in others they do not. Why?

WHEN coronavirus has begun to spread, in some countries and cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo, masks have become a part of everyday life, and those who do not wear them are subject to social condemnation. But in many other countries, such as the UK, US and Singapore, it is still acceptable to walk without face masks, the BBC reports.

Wearing or avoiding protective masks is not only a matter of government recommendations or medical advice, but a matter of culture, or of history. But as the pandemic expands, the question is whether it will change.

The World Health Organization does not recommend wearing masks massively

Since the coronavirus spread, the official position of the World Health Organization has been clear. Masks should be worn by those who are ill and have symptoms and those who care for those who are infected. No one else needs to wear masks and there are several reasons for this.

One is that masks are not considered a reliable protection since recent research shows that the virus spreads drip and in contact with infected surfaces. This means that the mask is a useful protection only in specific situations where someone who is infected coughs or sneezes near the face of the wearer. Because of this, experts claim that frequent hand washing is much more effective. In addition, removing the mask also requires a special procedure to avoid contamination by hand and may give a false sense of security.

In China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, most people wear masks

However, in some parts of Asia, wearing masks has become commonplace, is considered to bring security and is a matter of one's consideration. There is a widespread assumption in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan that everyone, even healthy people, can be carriers of the virus. In view of this, in the spirit of solidarity, masks are worn to protect others. Some governments in these countries encourage citizens to wear masks, and in certain parts of China, a person who does not wear a mask can be arrested and punished.

On the other hand, in Indonesia and the Philippines, countries suspected of having a large number of unreported cases of infection, most people in big cities have started wearing masks to protect themselves from others.

In many of these countries, wearing masks was common even before the coronavirus outbreak. They even became a fashion accessory – at one point, Hello Kitty masks flooded Hong Kong street brands.

In East Asia, many people wear masks when they are ill because it is considered rude to sneeze and cough

In East Asia, many people wear masks when they are ill or during the fever season because it is considered rude to sneeze and cough. The 2003 SARS epidemic, which has affected some countries in the region, has also contributed to the habit of wearing masks. This is especially true in Hong Kong, where many people have died from SARS.

One of the major differences between these countries and the western ones is the fact that they have already undergone some form of epidemic in the past and that their memories are still fresh and painful. In addition, in Southeast Asia, especially in major cities, many have worn masks on the street for air pollution.

In Singapore, authorities have asked citizens not to wear masks

But masks are not worn everywhere in Asia. In Singapore, for example, authorities have asked citizens not to wear masks to ensure they remain adequate for those working in the health sector. Therefore, most people there do not wear masks on the street. There is a great deal of trust in the government and people listen to the government's instructions.

Wearing a mask as a ritual

Likewise, some consider the ubiquitous wearing of masks as a visual reminder of the danger of the virus and may act as an incentive for overall better care of their own hygiene habits.

“Putting on a mask every day before going out is like a ritual, like a uniform. In such ritual behavior, a person feels that he or she has to live in accordance with what the uniform represents. And in the case of mask hygiene habits, such as not touching your face or avoiding crowds and distancing yourself from people, ”said Donald Low, a behavioral economist and professor at the University of Hong Kong.

In addition, there is a thought that even the smallest protection is important in the fight against the virus.

Masks are effective in public places where there are many people

“We cannot say that masks are ineffective, but we suppose they have some effect because it is the protection we give to healthcare professionals,” said Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong. He also added that masks are effective in public broadcasting in places where there are many people.

But widespread masking has its downsides. In Japan, Indonesia and Thailand there is currently a shortage of protective masks. Therefore, there is a fear that people might use them more than once, which is not hygienic, to shop on the black market or to wear masks made at home that may be completely ineffective.

People who do not wear masks in these countries are stigmatized to such an extent that they are not released into shops and buildings. Some tabloids in Hong Kong have posted photos of strangers not wearing masks on their front pages and criticized them for not being careful. But discrimination goes both ways. In countries where it is not common to wear masks, such as in the West, it avoids or even attacks those who wear them.

Wearing masks may still make sense

But those countries that recommend wearing masks may be right and experts are now reviewing World Health Organization advice.

First of all, there has been evidence that the number of people who have the virus and do not show symptoms is greater than initially thought.

A third of all positives in China did not show any symptoms

According to the Chinese government, published by the South China Morning Post, it is estimated that a third of all positives did not show any symptoms. On the Diamond Princess cruiser, whose passengers were quarantined on the Yokohama coast, about half of the positive cases, more than 600, had no symptoms. In Iceland, where most testing is conducted in the world, a similar proportion of infections with no symptoms have been found.

Therefore, the question arises whether those who do not know they have the virus prevent the wearing of masks. That is, if everyone is wearing masks, then infected people with symptoms will not be transmitted.

A recently released study in China found that “undocumented cases”, that is, those who did not have any or had mild symptoms, could be responsible for nearly 80 percent of the infection.

Wearing masks may therefore be a habit that has emerged recently because of past experience with infections and as part of cultural norms. But as the pandemic expands and new evidence and knowledge come to light, the behavior of people around the world could change.

In some countries, people wear masks, in others they do not. Why?

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