They’re mandatory in more than 50 countries, and a handful of states in the US mandate the use of them in public, too. Experts here, too, are now echoing the call to wear masks and face coverings in enclosed public places and on public transport. “The effectiveness of masks reducing transmission is now really clear,” Professor Michael Toole of the Burnet Institute said last week, citing a review published in The Lancet this month that found wearing a mask could reduce the risk of passing on an infection by 85 per cent.
And yet, many of us resist wearing them. Arguments against mask wearing break away from fact and stumble into the realm of ideology and the impingement of freedoms, personal inconvenience and, in some cases, political positioning. In the US, President Trump has so politicised mask wearing that to wear a mask or not has become a symbol of one’s political allegiance, throwing all possible life-saving advantages out the door in blind, political, cultish allegiance.
The thing is, this virus will be with us for a while. A vaccine doesn’t look likely anytime soon. That means we’re going to have to live with COVID-19. And each other. And that’s the most important part. The together thing. We need to recognise that wearing a mask or a face covering shows respect and concern for our fellow-human; it’s not an impingement on one’s freedoms. And it’s not a sign of fear, or weakness, or political alliance. It’s a sign of respect, not just for the person standing next to you, but for the concept of community.