Are we tired of wearing the mask every time we leave home? Many times we can have the impression that the majority no longer uses it, at least in open spaces. The covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020 and forced us to cover part of our face as a habit to protect ourselves from the invisible threat of the new coronavirus. More than two and a half years later, when vaccination has reached optimal levels in most countries, people's willingness to strictly comply with prevention recommendations may no longer be the same. At the beginning of October this year, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, He said that the end of the pandemic “is at the view”, but there is still a long way to go.
The truth is that, according to specialists, no one can accurately establish the end of a pandemic. In fact, when we refer to such a moment here, we are actually talking about the end of the global emergency due to the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (covid-19), which is the nomenclature used by the WHO.
According to an article published in December 2021 by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), signed by David Robertson and Peter Doshi, “there is no universal definition of the epidemiological parameters of the end of a pandemic”. In other words, there are several indicators, such as the number of deaths, number of new positive cases reported, prevalence, but none of them have an established figure that denotes a finish line. other item, published in the magazine Pediatric Andes (Chilean Society of Pediatrics) in July 2022 and signed by Jaime Rodríguez, points out four elements that could indicate the biological end of a pandemic: 1- Herd immunity is reached; 2- Environmental changes interrupt the transmission of the pathogen; 3- The microorganism loses virulence; 4- Effective vaccines and treatments are developed.
The WHO meets quarterly to a council of specialists who analyze the data and the capacities to deal with the outbreak in different regions of the world and issue a judgment on the situation. The WHO will not announce that the virus will be gone, but could eventually report when the "global emergency" has passed.
The two articles cited also mention the “social component” that intervenes in the consideration of the end of the pandemic. It is about the progressive relaxation of the special measures taken to prevent contagion: confinement, use of masks, requirement of tests, among others. Jaime Rodríguez's text maintains that, as the situation improves, alert news circulates much less:
“It is likely that we will stop talking about the pandemic before it is over. One possibility is that the pandemic may end socially sooner than from a medical-epidemiological point of view. As there is no risk communication, we stop perceiving it as a threat REAL".
For its part, the article by Robertson and Doshi states that “pandemics, at least respiratory viral pandemics, simply do not end in a way that can be shown in data dashboards. Far from a dramatic 'end', pandemics gradually fade as society adjusts to living with the new disease agent and social life returns to normal.
In this scenario, we decided to ask our audience about their expectations about when the WHO could announce that the pandemic emergency is over and also about the behavior that we currently maintain regarding the use of the mask. In this way we can approach the social feeling about the pandemic in Venezuela, when there are only four months to go until the three years of the news that changed our lives.
We publish a digital survey in latestnews.com.ve and our social networks and between Monday, October 24 and Thursday, October 27, 1.465 people participated. The results were the following.
too soon or too late
The audience's forecast on when the WHO could announce the end of the emergency due to the covid-19 outbreak was divided. 27,4% think that such a thing will happen beyond the year 2024. Meanwhile, a slightly smaller sector expects the coveted announcement to take place at the beginning of 2023. Another 21% sees it rather by the middle of next year, 14,8, 2023% place their hopes at the end of 12,7 and, finally, 2024% believe that it will be during XNUMX.
If we add segments we can make interesting readings of these results. Among those who expect the end of the pandemic by early and mid-2023, we have that 45,1% predict that the world will emerge from the covid-19 emergency in the first half of next year. This would happily coincide with the auspicious phrase of the director of the WHO when stating that that moment is "in sight". If we add to this group those who made their projection for the end of 2023, we obtain that practically 60% of the population feels that within a year we will have overcome the pandemic. The remaining 40% could be classified as “less optimistic”, since they do not expect the situation to improve substantially until 2024 and beyond.
Now, let's return to the present to find out what the behavior of our people is regarding one of the iconic measures of the pandemic, perhaps the one that impacted us the most physically, in addition to confinement. We asked our survey participants to say whether they currently wear a face covering or mask at all times when they go outside their home. This is the requirement that the authorities have made in our country as part of the collective efforts to care for the health of the population. However, we will all agree that many times in the streets you can see a significant number of people who do not wear the mask covering their mouth and nose, as specified in the established health requirements. We define as response options four expressions that illustrate different behaviors that can be seen among people on a daily basis: 1- “Yes, I use it at all times”; 2- "I put it on, but I take it off for a while"; 3- "I don't use it in open spaces, but I do use it in closed places"; 4- “No, I don't wear it anymore”.
The results showed an interesting distribution:
The largest sector, with 35,4%, brings together those who state that they do not use the mask in open spaces, they only use it when they are in closed places. This refers to workplaces, commercial premises and any type of building that is not the home, since the question demanded behavior "away from home".
Then comes the group that claims to use the mask correctly “at all times”, it is worth mentioning, both in open and closed spaces. We are talking about 31,1% of the total number of participants. Then comes 20,5% who confessed that, although they always wear their mask, the truth is that they put it on for a while and take it off for another while.
Finally, there are those who directly stated that they no longer wear a mask at any time. They were 13% of the total.
We have, then, that those who fully comply with the prevention standard are more than twice as many as those who refuse to do so. But, we can also point out that almost 56%, that is, the majority, partially complies with the standard. They show irregular behavior regarding the use of the mask, something like “sometimes yes, sometimes no”.
Diversity is the norm
But you don't have to be so harsh in reading this data. In fact, if we take an overview of the state regulations on the use of masks in the countries of our region, we can see that at the present time there are different modalities on the same matter. We carried out an investigation on the internet, based on information from the media of each country in Latin America and the Caribbean, to determine what is the current regulation as of today, October 2022, on the use of face masks. We compiled the findings in a table, grouped into four categories.
The first category is that of countries where the use of a mask is still mandatory. There is Venezuela together with Honduras, Guyana and Suriname, for a total of four cases. Then we have the countries where the mask is optional in open spaces, that is, people are not required to use it outdoors, but in closed spaces: this is the case of Bolivia and Haiti, only two cases. Thirdly, there are the countries in which the use of the mask is restricted to specific spaces such as health centers, schools and public transport. Here we find a group of 10 countries: Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Chile, Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Martinique. In fourth place, we have the category that currently brings together the largest number of countries in the region: those where the obligation to use the mask was completely lifted. There are a total of 18: Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Belize, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Granada, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados. and Jamaica.
We can see that a little more than half of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (52,9%) have eliminated the mandatory use of the mask. Then we have a group that corresponds to 29,4% where the norm is maintained in specific spaces. Only in 11,4% of the region is the mask mandatory and in 5,9% its use is optional in open spaces and mandatory in closed spaces.
The data tells us that social behavior has advanced significantly towards the relaxation of the special regime imposed by the emergency due to the covid-19 outbreak. We must pay close attention to the announcements of the authorities, from the WHO, which monitors the situation on a planetary scale, to the government of each country, which finally has the authority and legitimacy to define the health security parameters that must be met. .
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