Coming from Sweden with no history of mask-wearing except for doctors and dentists, it takes time to get used to all people wearing masks in Japan. In stores, on trains, on the streets – especially in winter there are many many white masks walking around. The reasons, as I understand them, are to not infect others when you are sick, and to not get infected by others who are. And when spring comes, people are using masks for allergy problems too.

Before our pregnancy, I never wore a mask. And neither did my wife. It feels oppressing I think, and it becomes a bit difficult to breath properly. But after we got pregnant, we started to wear a mask when taking the train. If it lessens the risk of infection or not is another question, but wearing a mask gives me somewhat peace of mind when standing on a crowed train, being squeezed from all sides, having a coughing sneezing man behind me. I feel that if I should get sick now, if we get a cold or the flu, me and my wife, then at least we have done what we could to prevent it.

Lately, I have started to see more and more non-white masks – pink, green, black… There has come fashion into masks. And while I have gotten used to white masks, I still find the black ones scary. It ought to be the opposite – white masks scream hospital and those are really scary places for me. But anyway, black masks scare me. Not that it matters – any mask is a good mask right now with the Corona virus outbreak in China on the news all the time. Not wearing a mask now would make me want to panic.

I feel like the news has started to tell me that I should to be afraid of the virus, so I went to buy new masks today and they were sold out almost everywhere. People are stockpiling I think, or maybe they are sending masks to friends and relatives in China. Such a terrible situation for all those people living and dying in the middle of the outbreak, not knowing what to do, what will happen to them and their families.

People in Tokyo too are really getting worried – the number of mask wearing people has increased a lot this last week or two. I wonder how many of them, like me, think of the mask as a sense panic-protecting I-have-done-what-I-can piece of fabric, how many believe that the mask really protects them, and how many just use the mask as an excuse to be able to sneeze and cough without covering their nose and mouth. Judging by the many people who do just that, I think that the last group is not negligible. 

And I want to tell them – even if you wear a mask it is not illegal to sneeze and cough in the bend of your arm.

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