Our lives were pretty normal until a couple of months ago when it was stripped of all normalcy. All the things we loved to do were now forbidden. We could no longer hang out at our favourite parks, pubs and places. It was an aberration to hug friends or hold hands with a colleague.
A new nomenclature was introduced. Social distancing it was called. A hitherto unknown virus was ravaging our planet, leaving hundreds and thousands of persons sick and dead on its trail. Economies were either failing or faced with threats of failure.
Our world was consumed with fear and uncertainty. Plans were stalled and talking about the future was an insane engagement. Our life goal became simple: To stay alive. Life was altogether precious and precarious.
We have made some progress since then. Activities have resumed. Economies are gradually being opened up and the restriction of movement slowly eased, but things are far from normal and the prospects of going back to life as we knew still remote.
With these have come some changes, rules even to some. We are mandated to wear face masks in public, in addition to social distancing and regular handwashing, and some can’t get it. Understandably so. It’s costly, uncomfortable, hides our good looks and a violation of freedom to be told what to do and to go ahead to enforce the action.
Were it solely about us, that our lives were not intricately entwined, that we could do whatever we chose without our actions or the lack thereof negatively impacting the other, then it would not have mattered. But never have we been more reminded of how interconnected we all are like we have in the past months.
There have been a number of myths about face masks. Even though one would expect that at this time we all are on the same page with respect to what needs to be done to kick the virus out of our ecosystem, it is okay if some persons still need more explaining, some coaxing on how wearing a face mask protects them and others around them who may be more vulnerable.
Wearing a face mask is more than complying with a state or national order. It’s more than doing it to gain entrance to certain places or appear to be wearing one but doing it inappropriately such that the effectiveness is lost.
The truth is: Not a lot is presently known about the virus, but the much that is known about it has shown that these measures are protective, and COVID won’t go away until we take collective actions; until the misdemeanour of some stop sabotaging the efforts of others.
In this part of the world where some still doubt the presence of the virus and consider the news fake, it is clear that a lot more needs to be done. Popular public health saying, however, goes thus: The only thing worse than no information is wrong information. So, if you must wear a face mask (which you should), please, wear it the right way: With your mouth and nose covered when in public or in close contact with others.
How effective are cloth masks you may ask? CDC reports that cloth masks protect others from you but may not protect you from others. If everyone wears a face mask then, the communal coverage would be high. Health workers and caregivers of sick persons and those over 60 or who have underlying conditions should wear a surgical mask.
In decreasing order of importance: Social distancing, regular hand washing or sanitisation with alcohol-based hand rub, and then face masks. There is a new trend, that is face shield. Ideally, these are best reserved for health workers to protect them from the splash of bodily fluids of patients. If you choose to wear a face shield, always pair it with a face mask, otherwise, you stand a risk of contracting the virus as droplets can still get in through the sides and top of the face shield.
In conclusion, it’s not about fashion or what is convenient, but about what is necessary – an action that our lives and those of others depend on. I hope we live long enough to tell the story of how we survived COVID-19 pandemic, of how the world stood still for a while and how we got through all of the ordeals it threw us in the end. We all need each other, so let’s commit to staying healthy and alive together.
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