Wearing a protective mask during the coronavirus is a necessary measure, experts insist at the most famous instance in Germany now, the Robert-Koch-Institut (RKI). Since April 2020, this not the cutest, but inevitable accessory has not been complete without going to the store, or classes at school, or working in the office. Virologists keep repeating: during a pandemic, people without protective masks endanger themselves and others. But, despite this, every now and then debate erupts around the requirement to wear it in public places.
Who refuses to wear a protective mask and why?
The overwhelming majority of Germans, judging by the results of numerous polls, comply with the prescribed security measures. But there are those who are sure of their uselessness and clearly demonstrate their position by pulling off the mask under their nose or chin, or even refusing to wear it at all. Is there a way to convince them?
“Despite the fact that we consciously wear a protective mask for more than a year and it would be high time to make sure that it is necessary, there are still people who do not wear it on public transport or in the supermarket,” says psychologist from Cologne Frederike Leuven (Frederike Leven) in conversation with DW. The reasons for this, she said, are different: from rational (people are tired of the restrictions associated with the pandemic) to emotional (as a principled protest against any prohibitions “from above”).
Virologists are sure: during a pandemic, people without protective masks endanger themselves and others
In the latter case, there is little hope that these people will meet those who ask them to show solidarity with fellow citizens in protective masks, the expert said. But what if a meeting with such “rebels” – for example, in a supermarket or on public transport – is inevitable? How do you ask the person breathing down the back of your head in the queue to keep a distance, and the person sitting next to or opposite in the tram – to cover not only his mouth, but also his nose with a mask?
First, you need to assess the situation, try to understand or guess why this person is without a mask: did he forget to put it on or, in principle, was not going to? And if you are determined, the psychologist advises you to adhere to the following rules.
First of all, you need to try to establish visual contact with a person, and, catching his eye, gesture to point to your own protective mask – they say, you forgot to wear it? Non-verbal communication is the fastest and most effective way to resolve a situation without attracting the attention of outsiders, says Frederike Leuven. You should not use a mentoring tone to pull back at a person, pointing out his “offense”: it is better to make a polite request: “Could you put on a mask?” “Wouldn’t it bother you to move a little further away?”
The request to wear a mask can be justified by concerns for your own health and the safety of loved ones
You can – and should – justify your request by the fact that you, too, are not happy with the current situation, but do not want to endanger others, that you are very worried about your family and friends – or for your own health, undermined by a weak immune system. If the interlocutor is ready to listen to you, share with him your own sad experience – the loss or illness of loved ones, friends, colleagues: often even those who are confident in the uselessness of a protective mask show empathy and solidarity.
“It is very important not to raise your voices, to remain calm, not to react to provocative phrases of those who do not intend to give in to your request, and not to try to convince the interlocutor,” warns Frederick Leuven. In most cases, “mask deniers” respond appropriately. If all the arguments have been exhausted and all efforts have been in vain, you should protect yourself – change seats or step aside. “Your own safety in such a situation is much more important,” insists a psychologist from Cologne.
Your own safety is more important
Stefani Lage, a police officer from Leverkusen with experience of serving in the special unit Bereitschaftspolizei, agrees with her, whose employees ensure security at public events: football matches, demonstrations, rallies. According to her, the ability to resolve conflict situations peacefully is one of the main tasks of the German police. “The main thing is to remain calm and present,” she emphasizes.
This is especially important if passions are running high. “If you are threatened, albeit verbally, try to enlist the support of those around you – passengers on the train, customers in the store – or find a safer place: change to another carriage, leave the place of the quarrel,” advises DW.
Cope with those who aggressively ignore regulations and public rules, can only be those who are endowed with the appropriate powers: security officers, controllers, law enforcement officers. In public transport, you can contact the driver, who will call for help by radio.
“Nobody claims that wearing a protective mask is pleasant, but this is far from the worst thing we faced during a pandemic,” Stefanie Lage emphasizes. So is it worth it to defiantly ignore security measures designed to at least partially protect people from the risk of getting sick themselves or infecting others?