Four reasons I will continue to wear my face mask post-pandemic


Despite the easing of mask mandates, many continue to voluntarily wear masks indoors and outdoors. Dr Koh shares all the reasons why he will continue to wear one himself. – File pic.

ONE of the major changes in public health measures in moving the country towards Covid-19 endemicity in Malaysia was the easing of mask mandates effective since May 1 this year.

It is no longer compulsory to wear face masks outdoors and in open areas but it is still compulsory when in a building or on public transport including e-hailing rides. Physical distancing is no longer required between individuals.

But despite the easing of mask mandates, many continue to voluntarily don their face masks regardless of whether they are outdoors or indoors.

Personally, I will continue to wear my face masks, especially in places where there is a crowd and poor air ventilation. Here are my five reasons:

Reason 1: The SARS-CoV2 virus is still present among us

Many inaccurately perceive that moving into an endemic state means that the threat from SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is gone or diminished to a safe level.

Nothing is further from the truth. The virus is still present in the community and continues to evolve into different variants, which may be more transmissible or harmful to us.

The imposition of effective public health measures including movement controls, physical distancing, hand hygiene, mandatory masks wearing and rapid vaccination of adults and children in the first two years of the pandemic locally has enabled the country to progress towards endemicity.

Living in an endemic state means we learn to live with the ever-present threat of being infected with the virus, while going about our daily lives.

Therefore, it is only logical for me to continue to adhere to measures that have proven to be effective in minimising the risk of infection including the wearing of face masks – even when it is no longer mandated.

Reason 2: I don’t fall sick so often now

I used to get at least one to two bouts of sore throat per year but during the two years of the pandemic, I did not suffer a single episode.

Furthermore, numerous reports have linked public-health responses to the decline of seasonal flu, chicken pox, measles, and rubella in many countries. (1-3).

‘The virus is still present in the community and continues to evolve into different variants, which may be more transmissible or harmful to us,’ Dr Koh. ‘The virus is still present in the community and continues to evolve into different variants, which may be more transmissible or harmful to us,’ Dr Koh.

Reason 3: It is the responsible thing to do

By continuing to wear a mask, I can minimise the risk of being infected and unknowingly passing the infection to my elderly mother at home.

Elderly people, especially those with chronic diseases such as chronic lung diseases, heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus are more prone to severe symptoms when infected.

By continuing to wear a mask, I also protect those who are vulnerable in the community including young children below five years old who are not eligible for vaccination, adults with suppressed immunity such as cancer and transplant patients, adults who are ineligible for vaccines due to other reasons and older people with chronic diseases.

Reason 4: I enjoy my personal space

After two years of wearing face masks, I have grown to enjoy the little personal space that mask-wearing provides. I am by nature an introvert and I feel awkward in the presence of other strangers.

Wearing a face mask allows me to avoid making small talk. It also allows me to talk to myself or pray without drawing too much attention and even yawn imperceptibly.

For me, this is an additional personal benefit of mask wearing besides lowering my risk of catching Covid-19 or other respiratory pathogens.

Dr Koh is a professor of medicine and Division of Medicine head at the School of Medicine, International Medical University, Malaysia and serves as an infectious diseases consultant at Hospital Tuanku Ja’afar Seremban.

References:

(1) Jones N [Internet]. How coronavirus lockdowns stopped flu in its tracks. Nature. [updated 2020 May 21; cited 2022 Jun 7]. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01538-8.

(2) Groves HE, Piché-Renaud PP, Peci A, et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and other seasonal respiratory virus circulation in Canada: A population-based study. Lancet Reg Health Am. 2021 Sep;1:100015. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2021.100015. Epub 2021 Jul 17.

(3) Groveds HE, Papenburg J, Mehta K, et al. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on influenza-related hospitalization, intensive care admission and mortality in children in Canada: A population-based study. Lancet Reg Health Am. 2022 Mac;7:100132. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lana.2021.100132.

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