Coronavirus: wearing masks the new norm post-pandemic

Health experts said the UAE public was likely to continue to take extra precautions

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Using face masks could become the new norm in the UAE following the Covid-19 pandemic, health experts have said.

Wearing masks in public became mandatory in the Emirates on April 4, although many residents had already adopted using them by mid March.

Outside of the UAE, especially in parts of south east Asia, regularly using face masks is a familiar idea. High levels of pollution and the outbreak of Sars in 2003 has made them a common sight.

Dr Sunil Vyas, a pulmonology specialist at Aster Hospital in Qusais, Dubai, said he believed wearing masks would become the “new lifestyle” even after the pandemic was over.

"I think [wearing masks] will stay here for a long time and definitely for this year, at least," he told The National.

“Over a period of time, it’ll become a ritual behaviour, like in East Asian countries because they experienced the Sars outbreak in 2003.”

Dr Vyas said he had observed many patients coming into hospital who were now being extra cautious in guarding against contracting the virus.

He said the constant use of hand sanitisers had become a habit, “like wearing your shoes or a uniform”.

As of Friday this week, there were more than 44,100 cases of coronavirus in the UAE, along with 30,996 recoveries. A total of 300 patients in the country have died.

Although wearing masks is still mandatory in public across most of the Emirates, Dubai has announced some relaxation.

On May 31, officials said residents could temporarily remove their masks for certain activities, such as driving or taking strenuous exercise.

Dr Sneha John, a psychologist at LifeWorks Holistic Counselling Centre in Dubai, also said she believed wearing masks would continue.

“It does appear that the mask will become the new social norm, just as we have other norms when we go outside, like wearing a seatbelt in the car,” she said.

“Despite things going back to normal, people won’t be entirely comfortable to take them off because it’s become part of their identity to wear these items outside. People have been wearing them for a couple of months.”

Dr John said using sanitisers and wearing gloves could also become a common sight around the country as they also made people “feel safe”.

But she warned that continuing the practice of wearing masks long after the pandemic was over could become “mentally unhealthy”.

“The solution in the long run is to experiment and ask yourself this question ‘why am I wearing this mask?'" she said.