Life and Living

Dubai Diaries: Masks for peace of mind Filed on October 6, 2021

Though putting one on felt like a chore in the early days of the Covid era, everyone eventually eased into it.

I have reached the peak of mask-wearing. For the first time since Covid struck, I slept with a face mask on. I had to, because I was on a plane. Emirates flew me business class to the island paradise of Seychelles — and since it was a four-hour flight that took off late, I crashed as soon as the foot rest kicked out and the seat reclined. Off I went to dreamland not even realising that three layers of medical-grade fabric were plastered across half my face.

It was barely there, surprisingly. And this wasn’t any special kind, it was the ordinary blue one we all see everywhere. (I really hope I wasn’t snoring and sleep-talking underneath the mask as I totally blacked out). Face masks have become our second skin. Though putting one on felt like a chore in the early days of the Covid era, everyone eventually eased into it and, as the death toll rose day after day, we understood why we needed it.

Masks have become part of weekly grocery lists. Do you remember when a box of 50 cost Dh100 over a year ago? Now, you can get the same box for Dh5. Global health authorities initially said face coverings were primarily meant to prevent possible carriers from transmitting the virus; but then, eventually, emerging evidence suggested they can also protect the wearers to some extent.

The necessity not only changed people’s everyday routine but also created new enterprises. Those who can sew found an extra source of income by crafting cloth masks. Innovators came up with micro machines that allowed people to wear air purifiers on their faces. Some tinkered with the design to make them more breathable and skin-friendly.

People found ways to make day-long use more bearable. On the dark side, we have started seeing fish and birds ‘wearing’ them, too — and killing them in the process. Just like that, a masked world had risen and communities got used to it.

So, when the UAE announced that people can now drop their masks in certain spaces, there was a mix of reactions. While some expressed relief because outdoor runs and cardio exercises would be a whole lot easier, a number of residents weren’t ready to let go of the most ubiquitous precautionary measure in pandemic time.

Salons and beauty centres are among the places where the UAE public is allowed to go maskless — and yet, when I went for my manicure just days after the announcement, everyone was still masked up.

“Why are you still wearing that?” I asked my beautician, pointing to the floral cloth covering her nose and mouth. “It’s safer this way. This is part of our customer service, we want to make sure the ladies who love us continue to feel safe here.” And then she added: “Besides, what is there to lose if we keep wearing one?”

Kirstin Bernabe

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