Debi Edward in Wuhan: Mandatory face masks bring reassurance to myself and others

I’m writing this from Wuhan where not wearing a mask is not an option. The only time I don’t wear one here is when I’m in my hotel room, doing our early morning live broadcasts if nobody is around and when I’m eating or drinking. Even then, if it’s in a public place my mask will be pulled down only for that purpose.

It’s perhaps understandable in a country where masks are common place, that at the epicentre of a global pandemic they’d be wearing them, some people are wearing two (surgical mask with an N95 on top) and a hazmat suit, goggles and gloves.

There was never a question of whether to wear a mask or not in China. Like other countries in the region hit by SARS it was one of the first measures people took, if they ventured outside at all. There was never a compulsory order to wear masks in Beijing, where people there were not - and still are not - allowed into shops or restaurants without wearing one.

In Asia, masks are routinely worn by many people when they have a cold or even suffering from allergies in the spring time, and, of course, on smoggy days. It’s more to protect others than protect yourself by preventing sneezing or coughing on others. So in the face of such a serious virus everyone took to wearing one. Even when I’ve gone out for a run or been biking with friends I’ve worn one around my chin, able to be applied for when I stop or encounter a crowd.

Does wearing a mask stop you getting Covid-19? No, but it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.

Does it make me complacent and give me a false sense of security? No, but is having a sense of security a bad thing? The two times I’ve been into hospitals in Wuhan to be tested for Covid-19, I felt reassured by my mask. It helps stop me from touching my face which can also help prevent the spread of the virus. There is also the reassurance and respect it give to others around you, that you are someone taking this virus seriously.

I will be glad when it’s no longer necessary or no longer frowned upon not to wear a mask in public, but until then I’m happy to wear one for my own protection and that of others.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know