Top image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo
It took us three long years, but Singapore is now in DORSCON Green. And, most crucially, we can say our goodbyes to masks.
Masks have since become an iconic symbol of the COVID-19 zeitgeist. But it has been quite a tempestuous journey to get to where we are now. Pre-pandemic, the only masks we were concerned with were the N-95, used in times of haze.
When the first positive case was confirmed on 23 January 2020, things were still relatively under control. Masks were only to be worn if you were sick.
But Singaporeans being as kiasu as we were, were already stocking up. There was an immediate shortage of masks as the 5 million masks the Government released to retailers were sold out in hours. Prices peaked as retailers tried to take advantage of the surge in demand, by inflating prices; one tried to sell a pack of 20 for $138.
But when the situation started becoming more severe, we were left with little choice but to make them a permanent and daily part of our lives.
On 14 April, 2020, then Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong announced that wearing a mask was mandatory the moment you stepped outside your home. If you didn’t, you’d be fined S$300 for first-time offenders and S$1,000 for second-time offenders.
It was met with a flurry of complaints at the time. Masks were hard to breathe through, some said, and they got so uncomfortable when they were drenched in perspiration.
But over time we got used to it. They have integrated into our lifestyles, to the point where it has now even become a fashion accessory. Mask chains became a style statement.
Then, on 29 August last year, after close to two years of wearing them wherever we went, the Government announced that people could finally take them off, with the exception of places with people of high vulnerability and public transport.
And now, from next Monday onwards, masks are no longer mandatory on public transport.
I’m as happy about it as the next Singaporean, but for something that has been such a big part of our lives, it feels like a bittersweet goodbye. Because as much as we hate the inconvenience of remembering to bring a mask out everywhere we went, there are some upsides to putting it on that we simply cannot overlook.
Zero exposure to bad breath
Masks can not only protect you from virus-containing particles, but also the onslaught of others’ bad breath. But of course, that just means you’re at the mercy of your own, especially after a particularly strong-smelling meal.
Of course, a mask also helps in ensuring our olfactory senses don’t pick up the smells emitting from the few passengers in the train who refuse to shower in the morning.
Not being told to ”Smile, dear”
Sometimes in public, I overhear something funny and I fight demons to stifle a peal of laughter. With a mask, I don’t have to hide my smile.
Even better than hiding my smile is not being pressured by society to ”smile more”. Behind a mask, I can be my droopy-faced, joyless self as much as I want. Now, I have to brace myself for the onslaught of sexist, misogynistic, ”You should smile more!”. Urgh. Ladies, suit up for a fight—again.
Lip-syncing for your life in public
When it’s raining and sad music is playing in your earpieces, it’s just so tempting to act out a music video on the bus. Or when your favourite karaoke song comes on shuffle, and you can’t hold yourself back from mouthing the words.
Masks make almost everyone look better. Just for the short amount of time you’re on the train, it’s fun to live in the delusion that your Public Transportation Crush looks better than they actually do.
A study from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology published in January last year found that “faces are considered significantly more attractive when covered by cloth masks than when not covered. Some of this effect may be a result of being able to hide undesirable features in the lower part of the face – but this effect was present for both less attractive and more attractive people.”
But mask-fishing also applies to ourselves. Being able to hide insecurities or that one pimple that just won’t go away, masks just make us feel more confident and comfortable.
Reliable protection from air-borne germs
I don’t have statistics to back me, but I’m certain I fell sick much lesser when we were all wearing mask. Minus that one time I caught COVID-19, I’ve never been healthier.
50% effort on the face
What’s the point of shaving or make-up if the mask blocks your face anyway? The mask is as effective as any concealer out there. You could save half the time in getting ready since people can only see the beautiful and perfectly manicured top half of your face. From next week onwards, we can’t get away from just doing eye makeup anymore.
Do you know the average price of a lip-matte in Singapore? $25. And you know you can’t just buy one. Try seven, for each day of the week.