Wearing face masks on buses and subways — and even at the office — has become the new normal criterion in South Korea amid the coronavirus outbreak. People are washing their hands and sanitizing the surfaces they’ve touched as often as possible, and personal hygiene products are in high demand.
In the face of scarcity, some people have opted to make their own masks and sanitizers, while retailers have introduced some products that are out of the ordinary, such as an “anti-coronavirus hat” and “anti-coronavirus glasses.” Moon Ji-young, 36, bought one of those extra-wide-brimmed hats for her kid. “My child hates wearing facial masks. … The hat may not be able to block the virus completely since the bottom of it is open. But I think it should be able to prevent infection from water droplets to a certain degree,” she said in the interview.
Also on Moon’s online shopping list earlier this week were so-called anti-coronavirus glasses since she discovered the virus can infiltrate the body through the eyes. Moon and her two children — ages 3 and 6 — in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, plan to wear the hats until the outbreak subsides even though they are uncomfortable as the plastic barrier traps moisture inside, and even though they can hinder hearing. Most anti-coronavirus hats sold on- and offline cost between 10,000 won ($8.40) and 20,000 won, and take the form of bucket hats with clear plastic barriers attached at the bottom that resemble bee veils. Among the other fashion items spurred by the coronavirus are hoodies with transparent plastic sheets that cover the wearer’s face and mask-caps with a small fastener on each side where a mask can be attached.
Kim Hwa-hee, 28, recently started wearing safety glasses because the exact route of transmission for COVID-19 remains unclear. “I bought the glasses online to completely root out the possibility of catching the virus. I saw (somewhere) online that contraction is possible through the eyes and there are many patients whose infection route is unknown,” Kim said. “Though it makes me feel better, the glasses are definitely uncomfortable because sometimes it gets moist when wearing the mask at the same time. But I like it. It has brought peace of mind.” Health experts are uncertain about the efficacy of these kinds of new protective items, as they are uncertified, and advised the public to focus on personal hygiene.
Despite the government’s vigorous efforts to stabilize supplies and prices of face masks, the market is faced with a shortage and some customers are taking a proactive approach by making their own. “As you may well know, masks are sold at an extremely high price due to scarcity, not to mention that these expensive masks are not available for purchase. So I started to look for an alternative,” Yang Bo-sang, 44, said in the interview.
Yang, a father to two daughters in Seoul, has named his handmade mask the “BS70,” which is derived from his initials and a “feeling it can filter out 70 percent of the virus.” Yang crafted cotton masks with electrostatic cotton filters attached inside after coming across information showing that electrostatic cotton is effective as a filter. According to Statistics Korea, disposable masks are selling online at over 4,000 won each. In contrast, one of Yang’s handmade masks costs approximately 1,010 won.
DIY cotton masks are not only affordable but are just as effective government-certified masks in blocking water droplets. “It looks like plain cotton masks are effective when blocking large droplets (over 3 square micrometers). But for complete prevention, it would be preferable to use them after adding electrostatic filter cotton inside,” according to the Seoul Research Institute of Public Health and Environment.
Source: The Korea Herald