The smile is back on people’s faces. It was always there, just that we didn’t see them. Masks, facemasks, hid them from public view. Blame it on COVID-19.
Facemask is a critical tool in the fight against the new coronavirus. From early 2020, we sought refuge in masks to keep out SARS-CoV-2. It worked well. So well that we returned to offices in a matter of months.
By then, masks have become a part of our attire. It even became a sartorial statement. Colourful printed masks were followed by designer face coverings. It became such a rage that readywear salwar-kameez and churidars came with matching masks.
Masks at the style stakes
Cloth masks swept the style stakes, but their efficacy was so bad that surgical masks remained in demand. When these masks moved out of healthcare settings, they underwent a makeover. From the standard powder blue, it began to acquire newer hues. The blacks were followed by the whites, pista greens and pink. More shades surfaced. You could pick one to match your dress.
Technology allowed people to wear printed masks in the shape and form of their faces and features. They were so good that it didn’t feel like the mask was there. The affluent flaunted bejewelled ones. Remember the diamond-encrusted gold mask of a millionaire in India. One surfaced in Israel too.
Masks were ubiquitous. When the second and third COVID waves lashed the world, mask mandates became more stringent. Many countries imposed fines on the unmasked. Some experts called for double masks at the height of the Delta surge, while others harped on the need for N95 masks, a necessity only in healthcare facilities. Many opted for KN95 masks instead.
Dh50 for a box of masks
Remember the first time you bought a box of masks in the UAE. It must have cost around Dh50. But in a matter of weeks, it dropped to less than Dh10, and finally, it settled around Dh5. By then, it had become part of my weekly grocery list.
Every grocery stocked it. So did pharmacies. Imported masks soon faced stiff competition from local manufacturers. It looked as if every business had turned to mask-making. Well, that’s making hay while the sun shines. You can grudge them, even when a tea-maker makes masks. All of them kept the supply chains going and the prices low.
The pandemic is still around, but its intensity has diminished so much that most countries have scrapped the mask mandates. It’s optional in most places, although some countries insist on wearing it in public transport and healthcare settings. A sensible move, really.
I rarely wear masks now. I don’t catch the Metro often. I haven’t been on a bus for several weeks. And I hardly go to indoor public functions. But I always have a mask in my pocket, just in case.
The mask has been struck off my weekly grocery list, which must be true for many people. That could lead to surplus masks in the market. What happens to them? With demand dwindling, what will mask-makers do?
Looks like the masks have reached the end of their journey. It’s been a helluva ride. A scary one. I just hope that the coronavirus threat fades away. For I love to see smiling faces.