Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the US are all depending on social distancing to fight COVID-19 and have fallen into terrible situations, with mounting positive cases and many deaths.
Social distancing might flatten the curve, so that the peak is not so high that hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, the problem is that the pandemic could extend further into the future, hurt the economy more and become unbearable for society.
Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore have controlled the spread of COVID-19, and the main reason is that most Asians wear masks.
It can be illustrated as follows: If someone contracts the coronavirus and wears a mask when they go out, the chance of spreading the virus would be greatly reduced to about 20 percent.
When others wear masks, their chance of catching the virus would also be about 20 percent.
The probability of transmitting the disease becomes 4 percent, even if the masks have only 80 percent efficiency.
With fewer people contracting the disease, health departments would be able to implement tracking and isolation solutions.
Unfortunately, in Western culture, people only wear masks when someone is sick, but many contracting the coronavirus show no symptoms and when they do feel sick, they do not wear a mask so that they do not attract strange looks, and also because they are not accustomed to wearing one.
The coronavirus comes from someone’s nose or mouth, and then enters someone else’s nose or mouth; therefore, masks can do a good job of blocking transmission.
Hands can also easily touch coronavirus droplets, and wearing a mask prevents people from touching their nose and mouth.
Under US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, people should only wear masks if a health professional recommends it, but not everybody has to wear one.
The true reason is that the US does not have enough masks for people and must save them for healthcare professionals.
If masks do not provide adequate protection, why do healthcare professionals wear them?
Although many Americans want to wear a mask, they cannot buy one.
Similarly to the US, Taiwan in the past imported 90 percent of its masks from China, but in January Beijing blocked all mask exports.
Because Taiwan is not part of China, China sold masks to Hong Kong and Macau, but none to Taiwan. Taiwan immediately fell into a public health crisis.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) immediately used government funds to install 60 mask production lines, each capable of producing 120,000 masks per day.
With the great capabilities and devotion of the Taiwanese machinery industry, the nation was able to make the new equipment and produce masks within a very short period of time — fewer than 30 days.
With another order of 30 production lines, Taiwan can now make 15 million masks per day.
Americans can be educated or ordered to wear masks in public. It is much better than being locked down at home.
The US should order mask production lines from Taiwan or urge US companies to do so as soon as possible.
With some determination, the US can make about 150 million masks daily, and the outbreak could be taken under control and the economy saved from further deterioration.
Kenneth Wang is a founder of the Institute of Taiwanese Studies in Los Angeles.
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