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More masking thoughts

More masking thoughts Posted on 20 July, 2020Leave a comment

There is currently a ‘third wave’ of the coronavirus in Hong Kong, where numerous community infection clusters have emerged. Schools and education centres are re-closed, and restaurants are limited to daytime services only. Even with the meticulous tracking efforts, many of those do not have known sources.

I had always thought the weakest link to the city’s zero tolerance are the exemptions for certain key workers that include cabin crew and logistics personnel. Up till this current wave, were not required to be tested for Covid19 upon entering the city. This seems having been through such rigorous testing and a mandatory 14-day home quarantine, are the obvious loopholes in infection control.

For a couple of weeks after we got out of home quarantine, Hong Kong seems business as usual bar from the obvious masking and relentless temperature checks when entering restaurants and schools. Social gatherings resumed, and people’s mood is lifted. But everyone remains cautious, especially with the use of masks and sanitising materials.

It did take me a little while to get used to wearing a mask, especially the ‘proper way’ of wearing it, especially at dining establishments. Funnily enough, my mum called me a foreigner when she saw me pull down for a sip of coffee. Apparently, the proper way is to sandwich it in a piece of tissue paper, or place it properly in a handbag-size folder. It’s absolutely mind-boggling at first, but it doesn’t take long especially when everyone’s doing the same

Before Audrey’s school resumed, we had already received countless notices about it. Wearing a mask is a given, but we should also prepare additional masks in her school bag in case to replace in case her mask gets soiled. Snacks should be easy to eat, not to be shared. Schools went back half day as they wanted to cut the lunch hours when children are likely to mingle.

Picking up Audrey from her densely packed school

On her first day of school, we received even more masks both from the school and the government. Further notices were issued about the proper way of keeping our hands and living environments clean. We have been given masks from family and friends. Shops give away masks too if you spend a certain amount.

Unlike in the UK and the US, I have not heard anything about infringements of civil liberties, and freedom to breathe. Far from just labelling everyone in Asia is ‘obedient’ and ‘subservient’, there is a true sense of collective action when it comes to infection control. Slogans with ‘together we fight the virus’ are displayed everywhere.

I remember at the beginning of the pandemic when Asia was all masked up, the discussion on the recommendation of mask wearing began as it all unfolded in the anglophone world. What ensued were debates over the lack of PPE for frontline staff and the lack of evidence that masks actually work, but now people are complaining that wearing a mask might deplete your supply of oxygen and make you more likely to get infected.

We can say the difference of wearing masks all boils down to culture, but when the evidence is clear and that the majority of people in Asia actually wear one (or two) on a daily basis and have so far been able to contain the virus far better than ‘the West’ (along with meticulous contact tracing efforts), shouldn’t we ask ourselves what is it that a simple face mask makes us so fearful for?

Just over the weekend, someone I talked to in London actually mentioned individual rights and the idea of getting immune by being infected with it (herd immunity), but will refuse to send their children to school. Am I hearing hypocrisy and self-serving snobbery here?

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