Face Masks are Not Optional. Get on with It.

Ming Lin

Why don’t people wear a face mask? I’ve noticed it so often in town and every time I am left puzzled.

(Image: Pexels)

Some people say wearing a face is uncomfortable; they say it is awkward to wear and that it restricts their freedoms, yet how can they feel free to live a normal life when COVID-19 prevails?

Discomfort is a price worth paying, especially as it protects those around you. York has recently entered Tier 2 status and restrictions will be tougher after 2 December.

So, is there a deeper reason why people refuse to wear masks? Well, it could be down to delayed gratification psychological theory. Delayed gratification is defined as the ability to delay the impulse for an instant reward to attain a more favourable reward in the future. Research by Walter Mischel gave insight into the role that delayed gratification plays in future success. Hence, the refusal to wear a mask can be explained by the immediate ‘reward’ of comfort. A selfish reason, yes, but it looks to be an innate human behaviour. Nevertheless, there is an even better reward: helping control the virus and regaining our freedom.

Currently, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK is pretty high, reaching more than 20,000 each day, compared with the total cases of more than 90,000 cases in China for a few months. How can this be? The truth is that most people wore face masks when there were confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China. In East-Asian countries, wearing masks was a thing before this whole COVID-19 fiasco: for fashion and also for stopping the spread of germs. Even those with the common cold would wear masks out of consideration for others around them. It is true that culture differs from the East to the West. Wearing a mask was never the usual thing to do in the UK, unlike in China and other East-Asian countries, therefore East-Asian countries would have found it easier to adapt than the UK. However, masks are not just fashion statements, they are there to protect you and those around you

COVID-19 is a nasty virus that can exist in the body of someone who doesn’t have any symptoms, so I’d recommend wearing a face mask even if you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms. It will help reduce the spread. The more of us that wear a face mask in public places, the sooner we can get back to the things we love. Now, there are genuine reasons why people do not wear one, such as severe asthma. That should urge the healthy population to wear a mask so that those who cannot wear one will be safer. If you don’t want to wear a mask for personal reasons, wear one for those who can’t and therefore are at higher risk. We will fight against COVID-19 and pull through this difficult time successfully, but only if those who can will work together by doing their part.

As such, let’s accept the discomfort that wearing a face mask brings to us temporarily and look forward to going back to the normal life we are missing. Wearing a mask can help us regain our freedom sooner. We are a very social species and the demand that we should not socialise with other people like we did before is still haunting the population. You can still socialise of course, but differently to how you did pre-COVID-19. Stick to guidelines and take advantage of technology (yay for Zoom!). Also, York has The Forest and many bars are still open around campus. Restrictions on socialisation hits especially hard for students. Most classes have been put online and so many of us are stuck in our accommodation for most of the day. This has a toll on mental health. At least a student a week from universities all over the country has died due to mental health struggles because of restrictions.

Wearing a mask is important to not only you, but to those around you. We have to think of the bigger picture. We need to come together and wear a mask. If we all do, we’ll be able to regain our much-loved freedom sooner.