OPINION: How Many Times Do People Need To Be Told To Wear Their Masks Properly

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Today started with a gorilla flying through Dubai Marina and it’s ending on a gripe.

How many times do people need to be told to wear a face mask?

My growing frustration with people who refuse to wear face masks properly matches the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the UAE. Saturday saw the biggest jump of cases in a 24 hour period EVER, and though today there was a dip – 640 new cases in total –  we’re back in peak periods, and because people’s attitudes to the virus have changed drastically since May, the future is bleak.

We realised Zoom parties are not actually that fun

During lockdown back in May, you needed a permit to visit the supermarket and everyone was staying home. Yes, we were required to stay home by law, but there was a reluctance, a fear of the unknown, a dread of what touching the handle of a supermarket trolley, or pushing a button on the elevator, might bring.

Back then, I was one of very few souls walking Dubai Marina, usually a hive of activity, to reach the supermarket. At the entrance of the shop, my temperature was checked and I was given plastic gloves to wear before I rummaged to find the best veg. People respected personal space and stores respected the minimum head count. The majority of those precautions are gone.

When numbers declined, as a public, we grew cocky. We also grew tired of long months spent at home, we realised Zoom parties are not actually that fun. We grew restless. People took the opportunity to see friends again. Restaurants are back open and accepting bookings, so why not?… ‘It will never happen to me.’

We constantly talk about a new normal, but it feels more like ‘back to normal, with a mask around my chin’, for a lot of people.

As individuals, we need to shape up

UAE residents, we had our official warning from the government on Thursday. Shape up, or else. To be honest, we were probably expecting worse. Thursday’s press briefing was met with countrywide anticipation, we waited with bated breath like naughty children, we KNOW people not abiding by the rules. We can see the numbers rising. Will lockdown or restrictions in certain areas come back? Or, at the very least, a curfew?

But no. The government asked us to be responsible. The asked us to go back to basics. They said that as recently as August 10, numbers were as low as 179 cases and in just a few short weeks, these numbers have jumped FIVE FOLD. They said 88% of new cases are down to social gatherings, which are prohibited by law, BTW.

They asked us to be responsible, to wash our hands, to wear our masks and to avoid social gatherings.

And throughout the weekend Dubai Police followed this with an unyielding approach against retailers and malls, businesses have been slapped with big fines, and some have even been temporarily closed for disobeying precautionary measures.

As numbers rise and any hopes of travelling home in the near future dwindles, it becomes increasingly hard to restrain from calling people who are not wearing masks correctly out in the streets

This weekend, in Marina I counted more people wearing masks the wrong way than the right way, and it’s so disheartening to see people walk through a supermarket with a mask on their chin. It looks almost defiant.

The effectiveness of masks has been widely debated, but experts say that combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, masks WILL help slow the spread of the virus. And not only that, I personally believe masks are the visual reminder many people need that a killer virus lives with us.

The least we can do is wear them properly.

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