The entire population of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and China put on masks immediately after the coronavirus outbreak hit hard in late January.
Why did they put on masks so quickly with little resistance?
The reason can be found in what happened in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, a similar disease to COVID-19.
Also caused by a coronavirus, SARS swept through China and other parts of Asia in 2002-03, killing about 800 people and infecting about 8000, small numbers compared to COVID-19.
What healthcare professionals and researchers quickly found out at the time was how effective face-masks and other PPE was in preventing the spread of SARS.
A medical paper penned by the Chinese University of Hong Kong after SARS said despite questions around efficacy of the use of face-masks in SARS prevention initially, the Hong Kong government demanded the use of masks in public places.
The researchers found evidence “wearing a face-mask frequently in public places, frequent handwashing, and disinfecting one’s living quarter were effective public health measures to reduce the risk for transmission.”
So when COVID-19 was announced earlier this year, the Hong Kong public was on “high alert” and implemented the preventative measures that were used in 2003 including wearing face-masks.
Another similar piece of research conducted in Hong Kong just last month said, “even though earlier this year, the Hong Kong government only advocated for people with respiratory symptoms to wear a surgical mask … the general public volunteered to wear face-masks quite compliantly from the pre-pandemic to pandemic phase of COVID-19.”
And the results show.
“Universal masking in the community may mitigate the extent of transmission of COVID-19 and may be a necessary adjunctive public health measure in a densely populated city like Hong Kong … incidence of COVID-19 was also lower than that of other areas with local transmission, vindicating this approach,” the research said.
So if your patients are still unsure about wearing masks, perhaps share the Hong Kong story.
Also, you can show them these photos of Hong Kong during SARS in 2003: https://hongkongfp.com/2017/02/19/pictures-hong-kong-2003-sars-epidemic/
Hong Kong looks the same today. If Hong Kong can keep its infections down, we can too.