It’s April 2020. Since the end of January, Taiwan has adopted a strict mask rationing system and export restrictions. Long lines of people in front of pharmacies, hoping to get their hands on a box of clinical masks, are a common sight all across Taiwan. Without a mask, nobody is allowed to go to school. Nobody is allowed to go to the post office or take public transportation. Without a mask, it is almost impossible to participate in any activities. Regardless of material or style, masks have become a necessary medium for social interactions and participation in societal affairs.

A mask is a sort of shelter. In terms of disease control, mask usage is to isolate and prevent pathogens from entering and exiting your body. This can be elucidated through the image that our body is a castle. If the body is a castle that resists the invasion and damage from harmful foreign substances, then the mask is like a protective cover over a city gate. The city gate is an important entrance and exit for the castle to communicate with the outside world while also being vulenerable to an invasion. It requires special protective measures such as a moat, a suspension bridge, and identity verification. Similarly, the mouth and the nose, as the main entrance and exit points of the human body, also needs special protection.

Although masks range in various materials and styles representing an idea of security, they all act as a cover for the mouth. During the Black Death in 17th century Europe, “plague doctors” carried a long stick, wore a black leather coat, and a beak-shaped mask over their faces. The long stick helped plague doctors avoid direct contact with a diseased or dead invidividuals. Leather clothing acted as a protective cocoon against the outside world, while the oddly-shaped mask and pungent herbs placed inside made it difficult for “harmful gases” to enter through the mouth and the nose. The mask is a sort of cover, an extension of our “body castle”…

Source: Remember COVID-19