Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Face Masks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wearing face masks is recommended as part of personal protective equipment and as a public health measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Their use, however, is deeply connected to social and cultural practices and has acquired a variety of personal and social meanings. This article aims to identify the diversity of sociocultural, ethical, and political meanings attributed to face masks, how they might impact public health policies, and how they should be considered in health communication. In May 2020, we involved 29 experts of an interdisciplinary research network on health and society to provide their testimonies on the use of face masks in 20 European and 2 Asian countries (China and South Korea). They reflected on regulations in the corresponding jurisdictions as well as the personal and social aspects of face mask wearing. We analyzed those testimonies thematically, employing the method of qualitative descriptive analysis. The analysis framed the four dimensions of the societal and personal practices of wearing (or not wearing) face masks: individual perceptions of infection risk, personal interpretations of responsibility and solidarity, cultural traditions and religious imprinting, and the need of expressing self-identity. Our study points to the importance for an in-depth understanding of the cultural and sociopolitical considerations around the personal and social meaning of mask wearing in different contexts as a necessary prerequisite for the assessment of the effectiveness of face masks as a public health measure. Improving the personal and collective understanding of citizens' behaviors and attitudes appears essential for designing more effective health communications about COVID-19 pandemic or other global crises in the future.To get more news about famous mask stock, you can visit tnkme.com official website.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is currently perceived as one of the greatest global threats, not only to public health and well-being, but also to global economic and social stability. While the first two decades of the third millennium were characterized by crisis—most notably the economic downturn of 2008 and the looming climate change—the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus originating from China has given rise to most drastic societal and political responses. These included measures as severe as states forbidding citizens from leaving their homes and effectively shutting down all social and economic activities (1). In Europe, Italy was the first country to officially detect the presence of COVID-19 in its territory, and it swiftly adopted measures to contain its spread (2–4). Within a few weeks, the epidemic progressively spread across Europe. Because of the novel situation and the contradictory opinions of experts, including representatives of the scientific community and World Health Organization (WHO), the level of threat caused by the disease appeared unclear (5). The assessment of the perceived risks of the disease varied in the public discourse—some considered it just as “a stronger influenza”; others drew parallels with the very deadly Spanish Flu outbreak in the 1918–1920, and many were simply not sure what to believe. Nevertheless, most felt the novel and unpleasant feeling of being vulnerable to the invisible threat of the infection (i.e., to be the ones in danger) or to be contagious themselves (i.e., to be the danger).

A variety of public health and hygiene measures have been initiated; the most visually noticeable perhaps is the wearing of face masks. The medical research on the use of face masks as personal protective equipment (PPE) against SARS-CoV-2 transmission was interpreted very cautiously, and the initial guidance from health officials was conflicting (6). The WHO advice was conceived to avoid unnecessary paternalism and at the same time be comprehensive in discussing different medical aspects of mask use. However, it was updated several times, shifting from initial statements that face masks are not to be worn by healthy individuals toward gradual adoption of face masks as useful in slowing community transmission. In particular, “…WHO has updated its guidance to advise that to prevent COVID-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 transmission” (7). Gradually, face mask use has been recognized as a suitable measure within the scientific community (8–12), if nothing else due to the application of the “precautionary principle” in the face of an acute crisis (13, 14). This has since been backed up by empirical observations (15, 16).

Different, mandatory or voluntary, practices, and contradictory indications about the utility of face mask wearing were introduced across affected countries. Generally speaking, face masks have been adopted as one of the measures to reduce the COVID-19 spread across Europe, despite the fact that wearing masks in Europe is not common or familiar, and it is often associated with Asian countries (17). The social conventions and personal meanings of face mask use have received relatively little attention. Its use is deeply connected to social and cultural practices, as well as political, ethical, and health-related concerns, personal, and social meanings (18, 19).