Wearing the Mask: Asia and the West Against the Tide

Posted on 2020/05/06

FIG started to make community masks that were designed in responses to the growing public demand for additional protective measures and to keep medical supplies for the health care professionals.

Our ambassador Pamela, travel blogger and web editor, is a true reference when it comes to Asia. During her many travels in various countries, she had the chance to immerse herself in the oriental culture.

Since I started wearing my mask to go to the grocery store or the ATM, my two favourite weekly activities, I feel the attention is more focused on me than usual. It's easy for me to read a questioning, or even a mistrust, in the eyes of the people I meet. I made this choice, despite the fact that I have no symptoms of COVID-19, like almost all Asians, simply to protect my fellow citizens.

The West stubbornly refuses to consider the mask

The most affected countries in the West, France, Italy, Spain and the United States, have stubbornly refused since the beginning of the crisis to consider the mask as an important player in reducing the spread of the disease. The message from the authorities is clear: we should only wear the mask if we have symptoms or if we are health care workers.

However, the countries that have so far emerged as the big winners in the fight against COVID-19, such as Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, have all forced their populations to cover their lower faces, symptoms or not.

There is an obvious dichotomy between East and West and it becomes difficult to discern who is right and who is wrong.

A connection with the mask very different from ours.

On the Asian continent, wearing a mask has long been part of daily life for locals. Global pandemic or not, nothing is more commonplace than meeting people wearing masks on public transport in Tokyo or in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

As Asian metropolises are often overcrowded, the mask is primarily used when a person has a cold or flu and has to be around a lot of people, such as on public transport for example.

It is also used in several regions on the continent to protect against pollution, but also in winter to avoid breathing dry air directly and thus irritating the throat. It is also used in Japan, for example, to avoid having too many seasonal allergy symptoms. Some Japanese also wear masks to avoid having to wear make-up or shave to go out to the corner store or even to avoid being recognized.

In short, it is an integral part of daily life. This is why it was natural for Asians to wear it from the very beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic.

A paradigm shift?

At the time of writing, it would appear that the Quebec government has reviewed its position on the wearing of masks in public places. Although Mr. Arruda, National Director of Public Health, has never been firmly against wearing the mask, it seems extremely important to the public health department that the homemade mask are worn safely and, above all, that they are in no way replacing other measures such as hand washing or social distancing.

How about you? Are you going to start wearing the mask to protect the people who cross your path?

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