Metro masks a sign of how far we've come

Wang Yong
The easy availability of face masks in Metro stations underscores the strides Shanghai has made in containing the pandemic.
Wang Yong

As of today, nearly all of the Shanghai’s 400-plus Metro stations are selling face masks at convenience stores and vending machines. A typical package of three masks is sold at 6 yuan (88 US cents), and no one is allowed to enter Metro without wearing one.

In public spaces, especially crowded ones like Metro stations or carriages, wearing a mask is mandatory now that the city has entered a “new normal” of epidemic prevention.

Supplying masks to every passenger in need at so many Metro stations demonstrates both the city’s caution against COVID-19 and its capacity to provide enough marks, which were once rationed.

The affordable prices of masks makes it possible for every passenger to enter the subway safe and sound. It’s no less than a sympathetic consideration for a passenger in a rush. It also gives Metro riders no excuse for not wearing a mask as required.

The move echoes expert and official calls for continued caution earlier this week in a meeting aimed at consolidating what’s been achieved in containing COVID-19 and preventing any possible comeback of the novel coronavirus, especially in autumn and winter, seasons usually prone to respiratory infections.

The cautious and considerate move also reflects an improved production capacity of masks. During this year’s Spring Festival, the city saw a daily output of 400,000 masks, which increased to 5 million by February 21 and 61.2 million by May 8. So far, more than 500 million masks have been produced and distributed. These figures were released at a monthlong exhibition of Shanghai’s fight against COVID-19 that ended today.

Indeed, Shanghai has done well in safeguarding people’s health during the pandemic, thanks to its vigilance and diligence, helped in no small measure by a respect for scientists and reliance on ordinary people.

If everyone remembers to wear a mask as he or she does upon entering a Metro station, we’ll be a lot safer as a whole in the days to come. In an interview with Xinmin Evening News published yesterday, a local medical expert warned that not everyone is duly vigilant, as Shanghai has reported no domestically transmitted cases for about half a year and has discovered and treated all imported cases properly.

“Many seniors no longer wear a mask on the bus,” said Wu Fan, a public health expert. “When lining up for mooncakes, many people now stand close to each other, no longer observing the one-meter distance.”

That Shanghai has weathered COVID-19 is not a matter of luck, she said. “It’s the result of effective cooperation between departments and active participation of the people.”

People power matters. The just-concluded exhibition on the city’s fight against COVID-19 displayed hundreds of photos and letters about how ordinary people – from doctors to nurses to volunteers – sacrificed their personal interests for the common good. From their letters, one could see how fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters bravely answered the sudden call of Wuhan in the midst of a family reunion on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Some put down their rice bowls and rushed to designated bus destined for Wuhan. Others put their babies to bed without time even kissing them good-bye.

Each time I think of these heroic ordinary people, I know where our hope lies. It lies in the hearts and minds of men and women who heed the call of others without hesitation. Let’s do what we can to consolidate the city as a safe place against negligence as well viruses. And let's begin by wearing a mask where it's required.

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