The face mask controversy in the United States took an interesting twist on Sunday as President Donald Trump finally agreed to wear one when he visited a military hospital.
For Trump to wear, or not to wear, a face mask may sound trivial for the world but in the US the issue took an amplified attention because of the relentless surge in the new coronavirus cases. The controversy has also become another election issue.
Trump always refused to wear the mask despite strong advice of his aides and medical experts. He thought it would damage his reputation as a tough leader.
Countries that resumed activities without any mandatory preventive measures have had painful setbacks and under the threat of reimposing lockdowns
More importantly though, wearing the mask would go against his own belief that the COVID-19 pandemic threat is diminishing and America must go back to business. His supporters, who look up to him as the epitome of the white male American patriot, too refuse to don the mask in public places.
However, the numbers tell a different and more realistic story. The US registered record daily numbers of new infections for the past five days.
Surge in US infections
The US remains by far the top COVID-19 infected country in the world with more than 3.4 million cases and 137,000 deaths.
Federal and state officials blame the complacency of people and their negligence to follow the basic health precautions for the dramatic rise in new cases, especially in states that are considered strongholds of Trump support.
It is a positive step that Trump has finally seen the importance of the face mask. As leaders essentially set examples for their citizens, it is expected that the US will move to ensure that wearing the protective gear is mandatory.
This an important move because it might prompt other countries to adopt similar measures thereby helping to slow down the spread of the virus.
Nations must ensure that preventive measures are followed strictly by people, including wearing the face mask and practicing the appropriate social distancing.
It must be a prerequisite for countries to reopen and resume normal life activities, such as business, travelling, free movement ad even possible schooling.
A simple look at the numbers of the last month indicate that countries which decided to reopen, with stringent health measures — such as the UAE — have managed to control the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, countries that resumed activities without any mandatory preventive measures have had painful setbacks and under the threat of reimposing lockdowns.
Several US states are considering rolling back their reopening plans because of the surge in new cases. There is no room for complacency or negligence. COVID-19 is a ruthless enemy and fighting it should not be made a political game.