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Mask the prejudice, be socially responsible Filed on September 7, 2020


There is no bravado or reasoning in being cavalier about masks

So the count of people stopping me on my tracks to ask why I don't have the mask on has, quite alarmingly, gone up in the past one week or so. All sorts of people have taken the liberty to pop the question at all sorts of places - from the curious colleague taking what should have been a quiet leak next to you at the office toilet to the noisy neighbour you wouldn't want to bump into at the garbage chute entrance before bedtime to the pesky passer-by, who should have had no business with you otherwise, at the neighbourhood park.

It's all come like a blitzkrieg this week, each cross-examination as sharp as a rap on the knuckle served cold and garnished with that one decided look full of derision. As if on their tender shoulders lay the entire responsibility of global public health safety that I had been threatening to destroy with my oft-dangling mask like a bull in a china shop.

But that's far from the truth and I don't think there is any bravado or reasoning in being cavalier about masks. I am no part of the growing global no-masker's gang either or the dude who wouldn't wear the mask, like Major League Baseball's Aubrey Huff, who - in a viral June video - even brands the enforcement of masks as 'unconstitutional' and raises widely circulated health concerns of wearing masks. I wouldn't go there because you see I am equally mindful of everyone's health including my own when I am out and about, just like I would before Covid struck us.  

I am not quite sure what just happened over the last seven days but yes, the cases have spiked in the UAE, like the rest of the world, and yes, we are all worried sick as we all should rightly be, for our own selves. The rules must be followed at all times, we have been reminded too once again by the authorities because a lot of us, as it appears, may have been taking more than an occasional raincheck on the Covid protocols - like saying no to gatherings and travel as much as saying yes to masks and gloves. Yet I have stuck to my guns and not worn a mask, like a Covidiot for most, where and when it has not been necessary - like while driving alone up the highway or while grabbing a quick bite all by yourself in some godforsaken corner of an empty restaurant. But for everything else, including public places where the laws of the land require you to cover up, there is my designer black cloth mask to the rescue.  

And contrary to popular disinformation on social media, there's actually no solid evidence, empirical or scientific, that wearing masks causes more harm. One of the most widely shared stories is that masks limit the amount of oxygen getting into the body. But much to the displeasure of the no-maskers gang, the World Health Organization has dispelled it as a myth and said that prolonged use of medical masks when properly worn, does not cause CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency.  

The jury may still be out on this but according to the UN body, face coverings provide "a barrier for potentially infectious droplets" in areas where "physical distancing of at least one metre is not possible". So curtly put, maintain enough safe distance or pull on your mask. And that should make a lot of sense to everyone.  

But trying to intimidate people into wearing masks may work just as good (or as bad) as shaming people into wearing condoms in the early days of Aids. Greater reasoning worked then and it should now, too. Otherwise, we all wear one or many masks anyway at different times. Don't we?


Abhishek Sengupta

Abhishek is the head of multimedia at Khaleej Times and has worked in radio and television channels before joining UAE's first English daily. Semi-skilled in breaking news and storytelling for visual and print media, he feels he is more comfortable talking than writing. A food and travel enthusiast, he is always busy making itineraries when not producing videos for Khaleej Times.

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