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566 Days Later

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Municipal workers take a mask off a statue of a primitive man in Dalseo District of the southeastern city of Daegu, May 2, as the country allowed people to not wear masks outside starting the same day amid a decreasing trend in the number of daily COVID-19 cases, in this photo released by the ward office. The office placed the mask on the 20-meter-long and 6-meter-high structure on May 15, 2020, to encourage people to wear masks amid the surge of coronavirus infections. Yonhap
By Scott Shepherd

It's been a little over two weeks since the requirement to wear masks outdoors was lifted, but a visitor to Seoul would be forgiven for thinking that the rule is still in place. The majority of the population still seems keen to keep their noses and mouths firmly covered by the thin swatches of fabric we've come to associate so closely with the pandemic.

It may seem odd to some that so many people would continue to don their masks outside, especially considering that the temperature is rising by the day and we fast approach the sticky heat of another Korean summer. Given the context, however, there are several reasons why it isn't really that surprising.

Firstly, we've been wearing masks for a long time ― a very long time. The outdoors mask mandate lasted for 566 days. Most of the babies who were born when the requirement was first put in place are now tottering around the house and proudly declaiming some basic words. Given how long we've been wearing them, it will take a while before people feel completely free to expose their faces to the world once more.

Furthermore, given that masks are still required indoors, on public transport and at gatherings of 50 or more, it may feel like there's not much point demasking between the house and the bus or between the station and the office, only to suit back up a few minutes........

© The Korea Times

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