Face masks, to wear or not to wear?

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-19 20:42:56|Editor: huaxia

-Does culture play a vital role in your decision in wearing masks?

-How much is the COVID-19 outbreak affecting your decision now?

BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Face masks were a common sight across East Asia, but were shunned in the West. Experts say culture plays a significant role in people's decision in wearing masks.

However, with the global spread of COVID-19, how much is the epidemic affecting your decision now?


To wear, or not to wear? It seems to depend mostly on where you come from. In many parts of Asia, face masks are commonplace as people use it to protect from air pollution, bacteria and viruses, or to cover facial imperfections.

Pedestrians wearing masks walk under flowering cherry trees in Tokyo, Japan, March 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Du Xiaoyi)

In Japan, it's impolite for women not to wear any makeup when going outside. So masks serve as a quick cover-up.

But in many Western countries, wearing face masks may draw you unwanted attention or even invite stigma and racist attacks. For example, a Chinese student from Britain's University of Sheffield was verbally and physically harassed in January for wearing a mask, and an Asian woman in face mask was assaulted and called "diseased" in a subway station in New York in February.

Those incidents show a fundamental difference in how masks are viewed in the West versus Asia.

Screenshot of Xinhua's Twitter poll on March 18, 2020.

According to a Twitter poll conducted by Xinhua on its official account, 21.5 percent of the 1019 respondents think people wearing masks before COVID-19 were disease carriers, 65.8 percent believe they used it to protect from pollution.

Many people commented that "culture matters" in their decision in wearing masks. As it's culturally unacceptable, many people of Asian descent ditch their habit of wearing masks under social pressure.


With COVID-19 reaching over 218,000 people and spanning 158 countries and regions, according to the latest statistics from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the global community is facing an escalating challenge from the disease.

A man wearing a protective mask passes by the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, March 15, 2020. (Photo by Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua)

According to a recent Facebook poll on how COVID-19 is affecting your decision in wearing masks conducted by Xinhua, most people think it's not only about culture, but our collective responsibility.

"Wearing masks, it's not about culture, it's all about protecting yourself, your loved ones and others too if you are sick," commented a netizen named Albert Joseph Rapiscal Radoc.

But a shortage of face masks and medical supplies prevented those in the West who have already realized the importance of it from wearing one.

"I have been looking for masks for more than a month now, living next to Lombardy (in Italy), but the problem is that authorities didn't organize well and you can't find any more masks in pharmacies," commented Ric Prim.

"It's better to wear them now than sorry later," said Cyril Moras.

Actually, health experts have mixed ideas on the efficacy of face masks to prevent the coronavirus which is generally spread through respiratory droplets from the nose or mouth of a person with COVID-19 when he coughs or exhales.

Screenshot of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams's Twitter post.

Some argue handwashing is more important, while others say masks can help stop transmission of people who have shown symptoms.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged the Americans to stop buying masks, as it could limit stocks for health care workers.

"They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk," wrote Adams on Twitter.

In China, where COVID-19 cases are drastically going down and businesses are gradually resuming operations, the wearing of masks has long been made compulsory in public places, while most Western countries just advise people to do so and many people still choose not to wear it when going out.

Anyway, to wear, or not to wear, it's a deep-rooted cultural thing and a global pandemic may change it for now, will it after?