Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 19 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/2/20

It Has Always Been a Matter of Masks

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages) (View How Many People Read This)   6 comments
Author 2694
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Peter Dearman
Become a Fan
  (2 fans)

Taiwan government requisitioned surgical masks for general use
Taiwan government requisitioned surgical masks for general use
(Image by Taiwan Central News Agency)
  Details   DMCA

It Has Always Been a Matter of Masks

A high profile case study from Covid-19 champion Taiwan suggests widespread use of masks may be the deciding factor.

Perhaps the biggest mistake in the Western world's flubbed response to Covid-19 was the bizarre mixed messaging on masks. On the one hand, people were told masks were scarce PPE needed by responders and doctors. On the other, people were told masks were useless; the virus particles were so small! What really mattered was compulsively washing your hands and not touching your face.

It was dubious, but influential, advice. And how were they so sure? I'm not here to blame the WHO or anyone else. National health agencies should never let the WHO make their decisions for them on a matter of such great importance. I'm here to say that people love to believe in counterintuitive truths, and propaganda artists know this. This is why conspiracy theories thrive and we have Flat Earthers and, even, Anti-Vaxxers, who may still have a role in how this pandemic plays out. Likewise, we notice that several "high-propaganda" countries fared extremely well as compared to "high-freedom" countries. They were too smart to try and trick their masses. Instead, they were transparent about measures taken, the known science, and the infection rates and numbers. Compare Vietnam, Taiwan and Cambodia to France, Italy and America.

Anyway, a lot of Westerners got the idea th at masks were dodgy. They became controversial. But the sadly ironic truth is that they were, are, and will continue to be the answer, depending on what country you are talking about.

Even as a biology graduate, I was a skeptic myself, well into January. And it took a lot of reading and thinking, and living in the safest locale on Earth, Taiwan, but this is what I believe now: Learn to love the mask. And, I think a single recent news story from Taiwan will convince you too.

In mid-April, Taiwan had Covid19 almost totally under control. The public was still wearing masks on the street, however, and masks were mandatory in public buildings and on public transit. People here can be cautious even in ordinary times.

Taiwan navy ship
Taiwan navy ship
(Image by Taiwan Central News Agency)
  Details   DMCA

Then, on April 18th, three Taiwan navy sailors tested positive for the 'Wuhan virus,' as the government here insists on calling it. Three days later, the tally was 27. Seven hundred sailors went into quarantine. People I knew started getting text alerts from the government telling them they had spent significant time in the same restaurant/gym/train carriage/bus with one or more of these infected sailors. A big concern was that the sailors were likely in a highly contagious state considering the overall timeline of this outbreak, which happened on a ship that was most likely delivering highly coveted PPE to Palau, one of Taiwan's few diplomatic allies. (For the record, a government probe concluded the cluster originated in Taiwan, not Palau.)

Twenty-three million people froze in their shoes. The president made a public apology.

These sailors had practically been on walkabout. They were on shore leave. Taiwan was probably the best place in the whole world to be then, and it still is. They went to supermarkets; they went to discos; they rode the high speed train; they took the bus, even as these activities were banned or severely restricted in most countries. And the government preemptively recorded their motions in a presumably benevolent database, hence the text alerts. I personally know hundreds of expatriate Westerners living in Taiwan, and most of them don't seem to feel very bothered by this database.

Now, here's the thing. These sailors didn't infect a single other soul, despite a lapse of nearly two weeks between their going ashore and being quarantined. I would argue, strongly, that masks made all the difference. These sailors were definitely wearing masks wherever they went. Indeed, they would have been under military order to do so. And, at that time, most of the country was wearing masks in all public settings. To not wear a mask was to invite harsh glares, I can attest.

Yes, streets were less crowded as people stayed home. Restaurants and bars were open in Taiwan, but they were taking temperatures, spraying hands, and enforcing social-distancing. To be sure, many other countries took similar social distancing measures yet failed to curb the viral onslaught. Maybe they didn't have the masks, or people just wouldn't wear them. But, masks would have helped - a lot.

Whether this deathly failure was due cultural hubris, misinformation or lack of supply matters not. What matters now is that the immediate future needs to involve masks, and lots of them.

Peter Dearman
Taipei, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
June 1, 2020

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Peter Dearman Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Peter Dearman is a Canadian teaching English and living in Taiwan. (edit) Now he runs a bar too. He is concerned about the generally high level of bad things happening in the world today, especially on the matters of depleted uranium, repression (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Why isn't sepak takraw an Olympic event?

Please Lord, not the bees

This Revolution Has Not Been Televised -- " Not Yet

It Has Always Been a Matter of Masks

Burma coverage teaches us Goebbels' Corollary

Harvesting the Olympics

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: