After two years of Covid, people now prefer to mask up!

light blue one use medical protective masks

This week mask, oops I mean, marks the second anniversary of Covid restrictions in many parts of the world, including mine.

So I started to wonder. What had I taken for granted before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown back in April 2020, which my government cleverly called a “circuit breaker“? (A euphemism to mask what was in actuality a lockdown, with people working and studying from home, and movement outdoors stringently curtailed).

The first thing that sprung to my mind was the freedom to “kiss” the air outdoors, or make my way to the pool with my full and naked face un-masked and turned euphorically to the sun.

My last swim before lockdown

sea man water summer
Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

I still remember Monday, April 6, 2020. It was to be the last day of ‘freedom’ before the circuit breaker regulations officially kicked in.

It might look for all intents and purposes to be a day like any other.

Except, it wasn’t. For everyone, not least of all me.

That was to be, for some time to come, my last day for a leisurely swim at a public pool. Something that I had been doing weekly, and taken for granted to be an activity always available to me.

That fateful morning, after my usual 20 laps, I chatted with the lifeguard about what would happen to the pool the next day. He shrugged and mumbled that it would be closed for at least two to three months until further notice. And if the virus rages on, maybe another two to three months.

Or more!

I walked away from that brief chat feeling for the first time a gnawing in my tummy that something monumental was about to take place. And I suspected that no one was fully prepared for the collective impact it was to have on our lives.

Well, you know the rest of the story.

A story that is still unfolding two years on in every part of the world, in ways both cautiously hopeful, and seemingly hopeless.

A story that, if you were to search Google Images today, would still invariably pop up shots of the indispensable mask, and the mask-wearing crowd!

And yes we are here on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 today. Exactly two whole years after the Covid-19 circuit breaker started. Still wearing those darn masks!

This is despite the fact that the seemingly endless number of restrictions since 2020 are finally easing up!

Far from the mask-wearing crowd

young family in medical masks walking along parking
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

More than a week has passed since my country relaxed many Covid restrictions on March 29. Restrictions that had been in place for what felt more like twenty years than two!

Restrictions ike the number of guests visiting homes. The maximum number of seated patrons allowed at F&B outlets. The wearing of masks outdoors.

Ahhh…the mask.

I still recall the first time I donned my mask to step outdoors on Apr 7, 2020.

It was one of those disposable surgical types that felt both prickly and ‘heavy’. Prickly because, be it cloth or paper, having one’s mouth and nose concealed tightly under artificial textures in the heat of my year-round tropical island-state, would send any GI Joe into an itch-scratching or sweat-wiping frenzy!

‘Heavy’ because on top of my ever-present glasses, my earlobes must now bear the drawstrings that carry the full weight of those uncomfortable and unnatural masks. And if I’m wearing the gold standard N95 kind of mask, then all I can say is “Lord help me!” It often felt like I had been permanently gagged and muffled aka villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

So when the government recently announced that mask-wearing outdoors was no longer mandatory from March 29 this year, I felt like that part of me submerged for 24 months each time I step outdoors, may finally emerge from the murky depths and breathe again in full unbounded freedom!

And I felt sure everyone else would agree and join me on Mar 29 to literally throw both mask and caution to the wind.

Boy was I wrong!

Mask off? Nope. Mask on? You bet!

white wall
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

There I was, sending my son to school as usual that Tuesday morning last week.

As we walked to the school gate some 100 meters from where we parked, I proudly removed my mask and strolled hand in hand with my boy. I fully expected to see for the first time many faces exposed with joy like mine. To feel again the wind on our full unbridled faces. To see grins and smiles and maybe some teeth too! Heck, I’m even going to chuckle and say nothing as my son drools in the open air as he does everywhere else!

Instead, all I could see every which way I turned were the masked vigilantes I’ve been living amongst these two years. And I could have sworn every other person on the pavement was giving me the evil eye and hurrying by to avoid me like I was a walking Covid virus!

For a minute there, I panicked. Did I get the date wrong for the relaxed guidelines on mask-wearing? Will someone take a picture of me and report me to the nearest safe distancing officer? Why aren’t people outdoors walking about mask-free?

“We feel naked without our masks!”

health workers wearing face mask
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

According to one poll, more than 76% of folks here surveyed said they will leave their masks on. It was just too troublesome to mask on and off when transitioning between indoors and out.

Others wanted to play it safe, in case someone walking by suddenly sneezes or coughs without a mask.

Some even claimed they now felt naked and exposed without a mask!

Really, I thought to myself?

If this is how most people feel here, then would that also mean the end of public displays of affection like handshakes and hugs? Are fist bumps, elbow knocks, and shoe taps here to stay instead?

And then the ultimate question hit me!

Are we reconnecting and restoring relationships openly to pre-Covid days, or retreating further behind our masks and disconnecting or worse, hiding even more in the days ahead?

What do you think?

One thought on “After two years of Covid, people now prefer to mask up!

  1. Ugh, I share your dread for losing your place of exercise. Mine was the jiu-jitsu gym (which I still can’t go back to, since I’m in contact with the vulnerable), and that has taught me to be resourceful enough to maintain my health at home. It’s been an interesting journey.

    And yeah, I have to say that I still prefer to put my mask on, only because I’m too lazy to shave, ha ha.

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