Whether we like it or not, face masks are here to stay

Only two weeks into the second lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, the mandatory mask rule came into effect. Anyone seen without a face mask in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire risks a fine of $200.

On the day this announcement was made, I had slept in, as it was Sunday morning. I woke up and it was already midday. I checked my phone and saw frantic messages from my friends and boyfriend about face masks. I checked the news and found out that within four days, we would have to wear masks or face a financial penalty.

I quickly showered and dressed and rushed to the shops to buy masks. Turns out everybody else had the same idea. A lot of shops had sold out of masks but I was lucky enough to find a box of masks to purchase. I also managed to order some reusable cloth masks online. If I was going to wear a mask every day, I at least wanted to wear something that looked reasonably good.

Thursday came and it was time to wear a mask. I went for my usual morning walk around the block with my disposable mask on. It felt strange and claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Almost everyone else I saw, was wearing a mask too. When I got home, I must admit I felt relieved to take it off. But I know it is something that I will have to get used to in the long-term, given we have a “second wave” of coronavirus cases in Victoria due to community transmission and a vaccine is not yet available.

I am now trying to make face masks a part of my daily routine. I put a face mask next to my handbag, so I don’t forget it on my morning walk. Although I still find wearing it a bit uncomfortable, I am slowly getting used to it and I must admit I do feel safer, as I pass people on my walk.

If you had told me at the beginning of this year, that I would be wearing face masks outside, I am not sure I would have believed you. In a very short time, it seems the world has changed so much due to the coronavirus pandemic. My life is completely different to what it was before the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, I was living it up in Melbourne — socialising often, going to bars and cafes and doing trips in Victoria. My life was full and fun but I eventually paid the price and I ended up becoming burnt out and fatigued. Getting out of bed was often an effort. I decided I needed to slow down and take it easy. Not long after that decision, the pandemic hit Melbourne and I was forced to slow down.

I am grateful that this period has given me the rest that I needed but I do long for freedom again — to be able to see my friends, go out to dinner with my boyfriend and travel to anywhere I like. But we are in this for the long haul for now — so I better get used to continuing to spend a lot of time at home, not seeing my friends and family and of course, wearing a face mask.

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Helen van Soest

Helen van Soest

I’m a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I love reading books, articles and blogs. See my blog: https://myhsp.life/