To Mask or Not To Mask?…

That is the question. You would think that after two and a half years of wearing masks due to the pandemic we would rejoice not having to wear them anymore. COVID has truly and irrevocably messed with our minds in such a short time and I have no idea how we will bounce back from it. The paranoia and germophobia that has emerged amongst and within us is not something we could have ever imagined or planned on, and yet, here we are, alert whenever someone coughs or develops a slight fever. We are so caught up in the fear of catching COVID or its evil mutant cousins, that we almost forget what it is like to have the common cold these days and are confused by the symptoms. We have learned to assume the worst, and it is a sad and sorry state that we are in now.

When I got on the train yesterday I was very irritated by the fact that several passengers hat gottenn on without a mask and sat as if they didn’t have a care in the world. In my mind I thought to myself, wow, the conductor is going to have a field day with these guys today, charging all the fines. With each station there were more and more people who got on without masks, and I began to wonder whether I had missed an announcement, because until now, the mandatory mask in public transportation had been strictly implemented despite easing up on the general regulation otherwise.

It already bothered me when the nation eased up on masks in supermarkets and restaurants back in June, and I was absolutely horrified in July when the bull run festival took place here in Vila Franca with nary a mask in sight, but public transportation and pharmacies remained the two places where there was no getting around it. Much to my horror, I discovered that masks are no longer mandatory since last Saturday, hence all the passengers getting on without it. And I am not sure how I feel about it. Ambivalent, that’s for sure, but it’s more than that.

I’ve managed to get through the past two-and-a-half years unscathed precisely because I have been so cautious, especially since I take public transportation. The new policy on masks in Portugal is a game-changer though and I am very glad to be moving to Mafra and no longer have to commute daily. Although I will miss the daily excursion and breakfast routine that I have grown fond of, finally having my own four walls is priceless.

Back to my initial question though – to mask or not to mask? Well, at the end of the day it is an individual choice and there is little that we can do about it. Remaning vigilant and taking the basic precautions will always be there, such as hand sanitizer and masks in the bag, Until this is truly over I choose to mask. Of course it is a pleasure to walk into stores and restaurants unmasked again, but at what cost? Will we always live with the fear of contracting the dreaded virus? Some will argue that we were all at risk before the pandemic already, of catching something else, and we are only aware now of how contagious society can be simply because we are going out of our way to record, test, and publish the findings.

There really is no right or wrong answer here. You cannot really condemn people for choosing to be free and unimcumbered when masks are no longer mandatory. It is, however, our personal responsibility to protect ourselves and those around us from spreading the disease. The ball is truly in our court now.

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