Most Japanese people start wearing a face mask as winter approaches. It is almost a seasonal sign of cold weather is on its way.
Each person who wears a mask has each different reason or purpose. Some for precautions to avoid catching cold, influenza, or pollen in spring, some for public etiquette not to spread whatever you are having or might have, some for fashion or just to protect themselves from the cold air, others are for disguise with whatever the reasons they have like avoiding to be recognised because you are famous, or because of some kind of allergies. Some people wear a mask all year around. Thus, Japan is a nation that you can go out wearing a face mask anytime or anywhere you like. Other than some exceptions, nobody would stare at you if you wear one. Whereas most of other countries, not so much in Asia though but especially Europe and the US, you can attract everybody’s attention if you walk on a high street wearing a white face mask. I had to travel to Seattle when SARS emerged. Although I wanted to keep wearing a mask during my flights, I could not as everybody looked at me as a SARS patient. So it amazes me to see a majority of people on the streets in Europe and the US wear masks to follow the COVID-19 measurements. I believe this will continue for some seasons at least.
Some experts say COVID-19 epidemic will not end simply that another pandemic might happen this winter or anytime spontaneously. If that is true, wearing a face mask will certainly be a new normal all over the world. Except for criminal purposes, I would like to welcome this new standard. Even WHO once insisted it was meaningless to wear masks for the protection of virus infections, I feel it served quite a big role in Japan to keep the infection rate low compared to other developed countries as almost all the people have put them on when we go out. In Japan, people will stare at you if you cough or sneeze boldly in public places without wearing a mask. It is our national protocol to wear a mask at school, college, office, even at home once you catch a cold let along a flu. People often sleep putting a mask on all night to avoid a throat gets dry while sleeping.
It has been very difficult to get masks since coronavirus hit Japan. Pharmacies have received thousands of desperate telephone enquiries every day if they have them in stock or when the new stock arrives, etc. I used to drive around to find a pack but now as of early May, masks are often sold under the daylight out on the streets by god only knows who!? Some are sold in a Japanese written package and look very authentic but I do not want to buy them on the street.
Anyhow, face masks have certainly become one of our most important shields against infectious viruses this year in the world whether or not its effect is still unknown. I have never ever imagined this day to come.