If you step into the street without a mask these days in Hong Kong, Seoul, or Tokyo, you will soon receive condemning looks.
Since the coronavirus epidemic started, some countries have fully adopted the use of face masks, and not wearing a mask in these countries is sufficient reason to attract the reaction of the society.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, wearing a mask was legally compulsory.
In many countries from the UK to the USA, from Australia to Singapore, it is completely acceptable not to wear a mask.
Some countries’ turning around while adopting the mask are not only related to the decisions and medical advice made by governments: Culture and history also have a significant impact.
But can this change as the outbreak increases its effect?
Formal attitude about masks
Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization had a clear recommendation: Only two groups of people should wear masks: those who show signs of disease and those who are suspected of carrying coronavirus.
Other people don’t need to wear a mask, and there are several reasons for this.
In some Asian countries, almost everyone wears a mask. Wearing a mask is considered safer and more thoughtful.
In these countries, it is assumed that everyone can be a carrier due to the absence of symptoms in some of the disease, so we need to wear a mask to protect other people from ourselves.
Some governments demand that everyone wear a mask, while those who do not use China are punished.
In countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines where most of the cases are considered undetectable, those living in big cities wear masks to protect themselves from other people.
In some countries, wearing a mask was normal even before the coronavirus epidemic. Even the masks have fashions: Hello Kitty masks were very popular in Hong Kong for a while.
One of the reasons people in East Asia have flu or allergic people wearing a mask before this epidemic is the sluggishness of sneezing or coughing in public.
The Sars outbreak that affected some countries in the region in 2003 also increased the importance of wearing a mask, especially in Hong Kong, where a large number of people died.
This is an important difference between these countries and Western countries. The pain caused by the Sars epidemic is fresh in the memory of the countries in the region.
There are only two countries in Europe that require wearing a mask. The Czech Republic Ministry of Health said that the mandatory mask slowed the spread of the virus, but it did not provide any scientific evidence of it.
Others argue that wearing a mask allows us to constantly remember the threat of viruses, helping people to pay more attention to hygiene.
“Wearing a mask every day is like a ritual,” says Donald Low, a professor of behavioral economics at the University of Science and Technology of Hong Kong.
“Just like wearing a uniform. When you wear a uniform as a ritual, you tend to behave in a way that suits it. When you wear a mask, you want to do what you expect, such as not touching your face, avoiding crowded places, and keeping up with the social distance.”