With news of the coronavirus epidemic spreading like wildfire in the UK, Spain, Italy, the rest of Europe and the USA, we’re receiving reports from Asia, and specifically China that they have it under control. One of the frequent questions we receive from our Asian correspondents is, “why are you not wearing masks?”. The answer we give is simply, “Because the government haven’t said we have to?”. However, after garnering incomprehensible expressions of disbelief (as though to say there’s something very basic we’re not understanding here) we decided to look more closely into the reason behind their choice of action that contributes to keeping the coronavirus under control. Read on for Coronavirus Mask: To Wear or Not to Wear?
Government Slow to Act
With the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Prince Charles, and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock contracting the disease and Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, also reporting having symptoms, we are surprised that the government is still complacent and slow to take action on the severity at a time like this, of a global pandemic.
Global Death Toll of 33,000 Far too High
The number of casualties could be much lower if people would stay home, wear masks when they go out, and keep to the recommended social distance guidelines of two to three metres (6-9 feet).
In the western world, UK, Europe and the USA, the coronavirus is spiraling out of control. Across the UK, as of today, 1,228 people have now died, and shockingly, Italy have recorded 10,779 deaths. In Spain the death toll rose by over 800 cases overnight to 6,528, and the USA officially now has the highest number of confirmed cases at 125,000 with 2,188 deaths.
Coronavirus: Droplets (or Aerosols) can Hang Around in the Air for Several Hours
One overlooked factor that is fuelling the spread of the coronavirus is the fact that it can remain as infectious airborne droplets for several hours after being coughed out. Believe it or not, a single cough can easily cover up to 6 feet (2 metres) of distance, scattering 3,000 viral droplets along the way.
Unbeknown to you, you breathe these droplets in or perhaps touch a virus-covered door handle and then attend to that itch on your face, through which the virus enters your body and reaches your lungs.
From there, the incubation period is 2-14 days (some cases even more than 3 weeks) before the manifestation of characteristic coronavirus symptoms become evident. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, tiredness and coughing up sputum, (thick phlegm) from the lungs. During this incubation period, again unbeknown to you, your role, now as victim of the coronavirus transforms into the ‘predator’ on the hunt for other healthy hosts to infect. Thus the vicious cycle goes on.
The COVID-19 Coronavirus is an Insidious, Treacherous & Aggressive Beast
Please don’t treat COVID-19 lightly. It is an insidious, treacherous and aggressive beast; it doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t care about your cultural conditioning or what you think. If you are careless or reckless, it can easily reach you, and through you to your family or loved ones, if you’re not cautious.
Virtual Reality Rendering Shows what COVID-19 Looks Like inside the Lungs
Now is Not the Time to Be Complacent
At this time, you certainly do not want to have to expose yourself by visiting hospitals or using the NHS or other health services unless it is a life or death situation. The NHS is already collapsing under the strain of handling an unprecedented number of cases arriving daily. They simply do not have the resources or facilities to help you. Do not become an additional liability or burden to a situation that is already unbearable – keep a responsibility mindset.
An Insult to our Intelligence to Say that Masks Don’t Help at All
Consider, if someone sneezes or coughs in close proximity around you, will it not be too late to go running around looking for a mask if the damage is done? The wise adage, “prevention (or precaution) is better than cure” definitely applies here.
Sadly, those who are listening to the government instead of using their common sense spread more of the virus to the rest of us and overburden the hospitals. We can’t really tell who is sick. So people who are both well and sick would do well to wear masks – it certainly can’t hurt to wear one. Those who appear to be well, but could actually be carrying the virus, may just not be exhibiting symptoms yet.
People learned this painful lesson already from the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in China and now they wear masks. In Asia, they have learned not to trust the WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines on this issue. Personal, dear-bought experience is more valuable to them than distant, impersonal and generic ideas or so-called scientific facts. David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studied the 2002 to 2003 outbreak of SARS extensively, says it’s “Common sense that wearing a mask would protect against infectious diseases like COVID-19.” See the ‘masks vs no masks’ graph from Johns Hopkins Medicine below.
Wearing a mask is a sensible, common sense and safety precaution and a simple trade off of slight inconvenience for the sake of lowering your probability of getting infected and peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Also, you’ll be less likely to require the help of the health services, so reducing the burden of getting tangled up in that ‘messy web’ of frustration and uncertainty as well.
Wearing a Mask – A Common Sense & Socially Responsible Precaution
Prevention is always better than cure. Note that in China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and other Asian countries, wearing a mask has become a social responsibility. At least 95% of their populations wear masks and people are willing to queue up overnight to buy masks. For those who don’t wear one, they are frowned upon and will not be allowed admission in many public places.
Here is an interesting article from the New York Post about an Australian woman who was ordered out of China and sent back to Australia as well as getting fired from her job with Chinese subsidiary of German pharmaceutical giant Bayer for jogging during quarantine. She was not wearing a mask.