It wasn’t that long ago that, like many in the west, we looked at those in the far east wearing masks on a daily basis, as though it was an alien concept.
Fast-forward to March 2020 and suddenly masks or face coverings were hitting the headlines across the world, many saw them as a panic buy, a fad, unnecessary or even dangerous.
In the US, there was a whole movement against the wearing of masks, as though it was an affliction against their constitutional rights.
Then we started to see those countries using them seemingly emerging more quickly from Covid-19, with far fewer cases and thus relatively lower death rates.
Despite this, the UK government initially resisted making any recommendations or requirements for the wearing of masks or face coverings, until they finally imposed a requirement for those travelling on public transport.
With no clear advice, conspiracy theorists and fake news controlled the narrative, with fantastical and nonsensical claims that face masks were damaging to your health. Or indeed, a minority who felt that any business producing masks was merely profiteering, when in fact all small businesses such as ours were doing, was endeavouring to produce a product for which there was a demand whilst keeping our workforce employed.
When the World Health Organisation changed its advice, Downing Street followed Holyrood and started changing their tone of language with recommendations but not enforcement. This inconsistency countering the benefits of wearing a mask, as they need to be warn by everyone to be most effective.
So finally in late July, six to seven months after other European countries, the UK has made face coverings mandatory in shops and take aways.
What’s the reason for such a slow response from the UK government, haphazard adoption by the public and such controversy?
1. The facts and benefits of wearing a mask were not initially made clear. Perhaps this was in some way intentional to avoid sudden demand putting pressure on limited supplies that needed to be kept available for hospitals etc.
2. People like their freedom of choice and expression, so whilst some people have religiously worn masks in public spaces, many have chosen not to.
3. Masks are not cool or stylish - they don’t allow you to express your identity and perhaps to some, are seen as a weakness.
However, by wearing a mask, you’re protecting others around you, and your elderly relatives and children at home. Moreover, by helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, you are protecting jobs, the NHS and the British economy.
So grab a mask, any mask, but hopefully a WOW Mask as the sooner we can stamp out Covid-19, the sooner we can all stop wearing masks, and we can stop making masks and return to making saddles!
The next mask scandal? It has to be the rubbish mountain of litter to follow - so buy a washable, reusable mask and don’t make a bad situation worse!