(p. A4) PARIS — Until a few weeks ago, Asian tourists were the only mask-wearers in Paris, eliciting puzzlement or suspicion from French locals, or even hostility as the coronavirus began sweeping across Europe.
. . .
This taboo is falling fast, not only in France but across Western countries, after mounting cries from experts who say the practice is effective in curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
The shift for Western nations is profound and has had to overcome not merely the logistical challenges of securing enough masks, which are significant enough, but also a deep cultural resistance and even stigma associated with mask-wearing, which some Western leaders described flatly as “alien.”
Seemingly, it won’t be for much longer. After discouraging people from wearing face masks, France, like the United States, has begun urging its citizens to wear basic or homemade ones outside. And some parts of Europe are moving faster than the United States by requiring masks instead of simply recommending their use.
. . .
. . . masks were . . . alien to Asia until it was struck by the SARS pandemic in 2003.
In Japan, after people got used to masks, they continued to wear them against seasonal allergies or to protect one another from germs. Unlike in other Asian nations, where many wear masks against air pollution, mask-wearing became widespread despite the absence of immediate threats.
Mask-wearing has become such a part of daily life that it now plays a role in maintaining an overall feeling of being “reassured” in Japanese society, said Yukiko Iida, an expert on masks at the Environmental Control Center, an environmental consulting company based in Tokyo.
“When you put on a mask, you’re not inconveniencing others when you cough,” Ms. Iida said. “You’re showing others that you’re abiding by social etiquette, and so people feel reassured.”
. . .
Daniel Illouz, a pharmacist in eastern Paris, said that he had been skeptical of the government’s repeated message that widespread mask-wearing was not helpful in fighting the epidemic.
“I don’t see why in all the Asian countries, where they have masks, it would work, but it wouldn’t work for us,” he said.
For the full story, see:
Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Méheut. “Wearing Masks, Common in Asia, Rises in the West.” The New York Times (Friday, April 10, 2020): A4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 9, 2020, and has the title “Mask-Wearing Is a Very New Fashion in Paris (and a Lot of Other Places).”)