Pakistan has made masks mandatory for all
The second wave of coronavirus is here in Pakistan. Why is it that most people, having been through the first wave, don’t wear masks even now? Myths, fear or discomfort–what’s your excuse?
According to the World Health Organisation, people should wear masks in places where it is not possible to maintain a distance of one meter. Masks not only protect people from getting infected, but they also prevent transmission when worn b1y an infected person. A study published in The Lancet proved that masks can prevent the risk of coronavirus by 65%.
Fareeha Kanwal, a psychologist and assistant professor at Institute of Professional Psychology in Karachi, spoke to SAMAA Digital about the reasons why people are not using masks in public.
“The first reason is anxiety,” said Kanwal. “When you accept the existence of something, you become anxious.” She added that people are “not ready” to accept reality and hence deny the existence of COVID-19.
Another factor is social circle, she said. People are influenced by their peers so they opt not to wear masks.
“If 15 people are not wearing masks, the other five will feel like the odd ones out if they do.”
Conformity is also a reason because people find it hard to adhere to a new norm.
“It is not always about illiteracy as even some highly educated people think that masks are not necessary,” she said. “These people say they know what’s best for them.”
SAMAA Digital spoke to 25 people about the reason why they don’t wear masks in public. Here are some of the responses:
“Coronavirus is not real,” said a woman shopping with her three kids at Anarkali Bazaar in Federal B Area. “Why doesn’t it affect us if it exists?”
An 11-year-old said he never used a mask because his mother didn’t believe the virus exists. Similarly, a number of children were walking around the market with bare faces because their parents told them “not to take the news too seriously”.
Two men agreed that coronavirus is some “international conspiracy”. But when we requested them to explain this controversy, they had this to say:
“It’s all America and Israel’s doing. They want to silence us by forcing us to put on these masks.”
Some people revealed that they were being “brave” as having a mask on is not “manly enough”.
“We are better off not wearing these things [masks],” said a rickshaw driver. “The virus doesn’t affect Pakistani men the way it affects the world.”
“I don’t understand why people are afraid,” said a man. “The virus won’t affect you if you act brave.”
Most teens and young adults said that they don’t cover their faces as their friends make fun of them.
“I avoid wearing a mask in front of my friends because they call me faint-hearted,” said a grade six student. “They say I’m scared of something that doesn’t even exist.”
A first-year student said that although he takes the SOPs seriously, it is because of his friends that he can’t wear a mask. “They poke fun at me and pull my mask down,” he said. “It’s better to not have it on.”
“You look stupid when you’re the only person wearing it,” said an old man on bus 4L, which transports commuters from Gulshan-e-Maymar to Tower.
Three of the five men we spoke to on the bus are perfect examples of this. One said he does carry a mask with him, but puts it on only when he thinks he “should”.
“You should only wear it when you see someone coughing or sneezing,” said another.
“Why should we wear a mask when the driver and conductor don’t?” a passenger said.
Although there has been a slight improvement in SOP compliance on public transport, a majority of passengers not wearing masks will make you think twice before you take it (if you follow the SOPs seriously).
There were some who didn’t cover their faces simply because it made them feel “uncomfortable”.
“I can’t breathe inside the mask,” said a woman. “It also causes irritation on my skin.”
“How can you have a piece of cloth on your face?” a girl said. “And I don’t think it is useful at all.”
COVID-19 cases have risen to 63,127,289 in the world, with over 1,466,066 deaths reported. In Pakistan, there are 398,024 confirmed cases and 8,025 deaths.
Coronavirus spreads mainly through droplets while speaking, sneezing and coughing, and covering the face is the most effective measure to prevent it. Experts have advised people to wear a mask to not only protect themselves, but others too.
Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre made it compulsory on November 6 for people to wear masks at public places, on transport and in schools, offices and wedding halls after active COVID-19 cases rose to an alarming 11,000. Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said that the virus was spreading because the SOPs were not being followed.