What we should definitely learn from the Asian culture now.
First things first: we are doing a lot of things right in the fight against the corona pandemic in retrospect, but one thing is still missing: the wearing of respiratory masks recommended by politicians and scientists and implemented by all of us. This would make it more likely to reduce the infection rate. The overall goal of slowing down the the number of infections would possibly be achieved more quickly.
Why? Let’s for one moment not think in Western individualistic terms, but in Asian collective terms. Yesterday this choice was still a question of culture, but today in times of the Corona pandemic it is a question of survival.
People in Asia either think first of the community and then of themselves or at least in the same BREATH of their community AND of themselves. People in Japan who feel to have caught a cold or contracted any kind of an infection or at least are coughing for what reason so ever, they all do wear a respiratory mask or face mask in public.
In Japan, this is a custom, link in German here, because you don’t want to bother others: neither with your private needs nor with your physical sputum, or more nicely put, with your private infectious droplets. Therefore, people wear respiratory masks or face masks in public as a matter of course. It is this mask wearing culture that we also need in Germany, in Europe or in the US, i.e. in Western thinking, in times of the Corona Pandemic.
The WHO, i.e. the World Health Organisation or the Robert Koch Institute, RKI, the national infection control authority in Germany, advise that people who have become infected with the corona virus should wear protective masks. This makes immediate sense. After all, if someone is carrying the virus inside, they are flinging infectious droplets into the ambient air when they speak, cough or even exhale.
But the same authorities like WHO, RKI do not recommend protective masks to protect against infection with the Sars-CoV-2. The reason is that the normal face masks only filter simple dust and dirt particles out of the air. Pathogenic viruses or bacteria or even toxic dust can still penetrate from outside. For protection in such extreme cases there are special respiratory masks needed that are named after a FFP classification, at least the ones in Germany. In today’s corona pandemic, only FFP3/ N95 masks protect against infection with the Sars-CoV-2, i.e. the corona virus. These special respiratory or face masks are in most of the countries sold out for now and should only be reserved for particularly vulnerable professional groups such as doctors, nurses, and also police officers doing controls and others.
If the WHO and the RKI now advise that sick people who suffer covid-19 should wear masks and indeed masks of all kinds, the logical conclusion is that we ALL should wear masks. That is clear, because:
Do you know if you are infected? Probably not. Do I know if I’m infected? No. You are assuming you’re not – as the vast majority still do in this country. But most, if not all, of the contagions in Germany were unknowingly transmitted. The caretaker in the old people’s home did not know he brought the virus from Italy and infected the majority of the residents. Nine people died. The bartender at the ski bar in Austria did not know he was infected but the returning ski tourists brought the virus home with them – unknowingly.
Assuming the caretaker would have worn a face mask, simply because in times of Corona it is appropriate to wear one, many would still be alive.
If the health authorities advise that everyone who is infected must wear a mask, then actually everyone must wear one EXCEPT those who definitely know that they are not infected. Or even better, only those who know they are already cured should walk around without a mask. Because I can become infected from one second to the next, even if I got my negative test result yesterday.
All observations from Asian countries, especially Japan, South Korea and Singapore, suggest that the general wearing of masks in public has helped to significantly reduce the infection rate. A comparison between the countries Japan and Italy alone shows that both had equally high case numbers at an early stage. Then, however, the number of newly infected people in Italy increased much more than in Japan, as it is reconstructed here: Observations on corona in Japan . What may explain this beside other reasons is the different culture towards wearing a mask. In Japan, wearing a mask for all in public has been a citizen’s first obligation since the Corona outbreak. With success: on March 24, 2020, the Japanese Prime Minister announces that schools would reopen after the Easter holidays!
It is controversial whether wearing a normal mask even protects its own wearer. But even for this there are indications, link in English here: Protection for others and yourself through masks. But even if self-protection is low or not explicitly known for now, we do certainly protect our fellow human beings by wearing a mask. Since if I should be infected very often I do not know it (yet), because I do not suffer from symptoms or do not connect them to the Corona virus. But it has been said that even a few days ahead of any symptoms the infected person is contagious for others. What if I now unknowingly infect someone who is at risk like the elderly? What if my exhalation droplets sail over to someone who is in fact young but has a higher vulnerability that I know nothing about and he may also not himself?
If I, you and all of us now always wear a mask as soon as we leave the house, we will certainly protect the others – and perhaps ourselves as well. The good part: Not only masks that can be bought will do, but also the cotton cloths that we stretch in front of our mouth and nose! This comes from different studies e.g. form this one in English: Cotton cloths protect others. And in the meantime, there are also instructions on the net for sewing a mask yourself, for example from the German city of Essen, here: sewing instructions for masks in German with pictures.
So let us be a little Asian for the time period of Corona! Let’s think of the others in the same BREATH as we think of us! Then we all win. How easy it is. I consider the well-being of the others and in doing so I also take care of myself. Because with a general mask wearing culture the infection rate goes down even faster. At least that’s what the two studies linked to this text and further sources strongly suggest. I care for you and him and her and with that same action I take care of myself. How great is that!