Day 25 – Thursday 9th April
This week there has been a debate raging about whether we should all wear face masks. The original advice from the World Health Organisation was that masks were unnecessary for the majority and that social distancing worked better. The medically approved face masks should be reserved for those on the front line. However there is some evidence to suggest that if those people with the virus who are asymptomatic, and therefore unaware they are infectious, wore masks when out and about this could reduce the risk of them infecting others by capturing at least some of the infected saliva they breathe out. As we don’t know who is asymptomatic and who is clear of virus this means we would all have to wear masks.
Of course all the issues of people reusing infected masks or becoming too confident when using a mask still exist. As does the shortage of masks and the fact that our doctors and nurses need them more than we do. Social distancing remains the best option. Mask wearing would be in addition. Anyway in light of this debate the Spanish government reviewed their advice of the wearing of masks by the public. They decided not to make it obligatory to do so when outside, as they know full well you can’t buy masks here in Madrid for love nor money. However they have said that covering your nose and mouth when out would be advisable.
This was announced one night and the next day happen to be my shopping day. Some of the staff at my local supermarket have always wore masks, but the majority do not. They all have disposable gloves on. However on this day every single one of them were in face masks. I don’t believe the supermarket miraculously managed to deliver sufficient masks overnight, so I assume they were always available and some staff chose not to avail themselves. With the change in government guidelines they no longer have a choice.
I sympathise with their stance. Bloody uncomfortable sweaty things are face masks. I wouldn’t want to wear one all day. I can only imagine how awful it must be for the medical staff in all the protective regalia. They must be melting underneath all that. As I don’t have a mask I was using one of the bandanas I have to cover my head and keep my hair back when hiking. I can’t see that it is very effective but it keeps people happy.
There are two problems with this whole face mask policy. One is the discomfort, but the second is that it kills all sense of personal contact. Going to the supermarket was one of the highlights of my week, now it’s this surreal and slightly cold experience. I look like I’m about to rob the place and the staff look like they’re part of some science experiment. I no longer see their smiles or they mine, so there’s less connection. I can see from their body language that they are just as welcoming as before, but the loss of facial expression really has an effect.
I will continue to cover my nose and mouth as instructed but I don’t like it. The sooner we can all go back to being human with each other again the better.