Do you know how to wear a face mask? Don’t glare at me. I know that you know to wear a mask properly. That would seem a stupid question, especially since we have lived with the new coronavirus for over two years. By now, we should have perfected the art of wearing a face mask. But that’s not true.
If you don’t believe me, look around you. I’m sure almost everyone would have a mask. But the point is: are they wearing it properly. Well, you will find at least a couple of people who preferred to uncover the nose. Just the nose. That’s to catch some fresh air.
Using a mask throughout the day is suffocating. So the need to catch a lungful of fresh air is understandable. But if the place happens to be a hospital, a pharmacy or a crowded hall, then you are asking for trouble. That would be flirting with danger; one COVID patient, even an unsymptomatic person, could pass on the virus.
Why masks remain mandatory
Would you want to take that chance? Particularly at a time when Omicron has unleashed a wave of infections globally. I don’t take that risk when I am out and about.
The COVID cases in UAE have come down significantly. Many of the restrictions have been removed. Social distancing has been reduced to a metre. But masks remain mandatory. That’s for a reason: it is one of the best ways to keep out the coronavirus, although the importance of washing hands cannot be overstated.
Outdoors are fine, although I wear a mask when going for a walk. But I keep the mask below my mouth when I break into a jog; panting into a mask isn’t great. But I take care to steer away from other people.
I’m more cautious indoors. I take off my mask at the office when I sit at my workstation but prefer to keep it during meetings. Cafes and restaurants pose a dilemma. These are closed spaces, but you can’t eat with a mask on. So off goes the mask.
In the UAE, we have been very fortunate: the cases have reduced drastically, and the vaccination rate is close to 100 per cent. That allows us to breathe easy. But that shouldn’t lull us into complacency.
Wear a mask at all times. Ditch the colourful cloth ones and opt for surgical masks; they come in various hues these days. Use a KN95 if you have to be in severely congested areas.
The world is opening up; travel has picked up. Many countries now don’t even require RT-PCR tests for arrivals. We seem to be on the road to reclaiming normality. The last mile is always the most treacherous one; that’s when we are likely to drop our guard. And that’s when we are vulnerable.
Let’s not give the virus a chance. The pathogen had upended our lives for two years. Masks and sanitisers have become our constant companions. We need them for some more time till COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic. Only then can we look back wistfully at the days when we went around in masks. And remember the friends and relatives who were felled by the virus.
Till then, let’s mask up properly.