“Let me just put on my mask,” I said a few days ago as I entered an office in an apartment building. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” the unmasked employee responded. A few days later a doctor told me in her clinic that she and I are “pretty much the only ones still wearing masks in Egypt.” You would think the pandemic had all but passed. But it hasn’t.
Statistically and from a distance, one could certainly argue that we’ve been getting off easy here in Egypt when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Our numbers were never as high as those of other countries with similar population sizes, and we experienced a few months of relative calm, where we were almost able to resume a normal life.
But this time of relative normalcy is over and it seems that many of us here aren’t really catching on.
Though we know that limited testing and asymptomatic spread suggest that the official numbers of cases and deaths are not entirely accurate, they still suggest a definite and unmistakable rise in infections and coronavirus-related deaths. At the beginning of this month, recorded deaths doubled in a matter of two days and have been on the rise ever since. Case numbers, which had returned to double digits over the summer are now hovering back close to 1000 for the first time since early July.
I probably don’t need to tell you about anecdotal evidence, because I’m positive (no pun intended) that you have your own, but I counted 25 people in my immediate or second-degree circle who got infected; 25 cases, 3 of which resulted in death. And I’m just one person. Family, friends, friends of family, and friends of friends of all ages and health conditions have gotten ill and suffered.
You might be asking, ‘so how do we stop this vicious second wave now, with talk of a new and more infectious strain of the virus appearing in other countries? The government isn’t calling for a curfew or a lockdown and we’re back at work and at restaurants. What do you expect us to do, writer?’
Well, reader, it’s simple: Wear a damn mask.
Of course, this isn’t enough if you go to parties and kiss and hug your friends all the time, but it is quite literally a lifesaver.
It has been proven time and time again for months now that the more people wear masks, the less likely it is for the virus to spread. It is hard to provide exact data as to the extent to which masks slow the spread as there are many factors that come into play here. It depends on the type of mask (N95, surgical, or cloth), the distance between individuals, whether one person, some, or all are wearing masks, the degree of ventilation, etc., but the Egyptian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and many more authoritative bodies have said in no uncertain terms that the more people abide by this simple rule, the less likely it is for this virus to spread.
And the thing is, it’s really not that hard. Putting a little piece of cloth over your nose and mouth definitely isn’t too high a price to pay for the health of an elderly family member or an immunocompromised friend.
Too many people have complained to me about not being able to breathe while wearing a mask. Mostly I just nodded sympathetically, but that sympathy was absolutely fake. I would like everyone who claims they can’t breathe under a mask to say that while looking a surgeon in the eye. It is simply a matter of getting accustomed to a slight inconvenience like wearing a pair of high heels, a tight-fitting necktie, an under-wired bra, or getting prickly skin treatments. And if you think breathing under a mask is hard, imagine how hard it would be if you ended up on a ventilator.
“Does wearing a face mask lower your oxygen levels” repeatedly by patients today!
Based on what they are reading on social media
*Face coverings / masks don’t reduce your oxygen levels!*
I managed to get six face masks on + it had no effect on my oxygen levels! pic.twitter.com/qNKYa8pejx
— Maitiu O Tuathail (@DrZeroCraic) July 14, 2020
I could talk about the number of parties I’ve seen on my friends’ and acquaintances’ Instagram Stories, but, again, I really don’t think I need to. I’m sure that you, reader, have either been watching these Stories with heavy sighs and shakes of your head, or attending these parties, giving the pandemic a generous and wholly unnecessary leg-up.
This article is particularly addressed at everyone who knows the right thing to do and still doesn’t do it, because they think that for some reason the virus is going to avoid them. It’s not going to avoid you, so wear that mask. Skip that party. No, it’s not okay if it’s just your relatives. No, it’s not okay if it’s just your close friends.
This is quite literally a matter of life and death. I urge you to think about your most at-risk loved one and consider the consequences they will face, the consequences you will bear, if you accidentally infect them because didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience of putting a piece of cloth over your face.