‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’!

BY: Ajoa Yeboa-Afari

It’s interesting that the world now has a mandatory clothing accessory, a ‘common denominator’, which is being worn everywhere: a mask! A world united by masks – even if effectively in disguise!

Most countries have a ‘national dress’ which identifies the wearers as probably from a certain part of the world. But now there’s this universal outdoors compulsory-wear, no matter one’s status, origin or age.

Who would have believed this even in the last quarter of 2019 if the most powerful soothsayer or okomfo had prophesied the coming reign of the (face/nose) mask and ‘social/physical distancing’ as the ‘new normal’?    

President Nana Akufo-Addo’s stern warning in his broadcast last Sunday was that mask-wearing is compulsory and will be enforced by the police. Evidently the rising COVID-19 infections, emphasizes that Ghana has entered a new phase in the war against the aggressive virus.

It has also become manifest that notwithstanding the present global hardship brought on by the pandemic, an ancient saying applies: ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’.

The meaning, that even in the most horrendous situations, some people will get some benefit, might be hard to accept in relation to the virus, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that some opportunities have emerged.  

For some people, even if their traditional doors have closed, new ones have opened.  

Take, for example, those in the Advertisement/Marketing fields, the image branding experts. They are clearly taking advantage of the new doors that have opened for them.

First it was the Veronica buckets being donated by organizations to various bodies and institutions which saw branding being used very effectively.

Commissioning the branding, of the name and logo, of one’s company on a Veronica bucket, that ingenious creation for hand washing under running water even in deprived places, was sure to send a message in the media of the donor’s benevolence, an everlasting testimony of philanthropy.

Soon, people saw the need to also donate masks, and, of course these too now come branded.

Then another, obvious group, the clothing manufacturing companies, seamstresses, tailors as well as fashion houses, have switched to, or added on, making masks. Admittedly the profit margins may not be the same, but still, half a loaf ….

And it could be that very soon other political parties, too, will be showing  off their branded  masks, following the example of the General-Secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party, John Boadu. At a recent press conference, Mr Boadu was sporting a trendy NPP branded mask, captured on the front page of the Daily Graphic of June 9.   

Intriguingly, some masks have become status symbols because of who the manufacturer is – and the price. Recently, a mask by famous French fashion house Louis Vuitton turned up on social media with an unbelievable price tag of US$199!

There are other, ‘cheaper’ designer ones – priced at US$60 and above. However, here in Ghana, thank God masks are mostly selling at single digit prices. One advert is offering “safe face masks” at GH¢5 each.
Fortunately, many organizations are offering free masks – branded, and advertising their businesses, naturally!          

But spare a thought for the youth of Tantala, in the Mamprugu Moagduri District of the North-East Region. Needy children there have reportedly been compelled to create masks from used sachet water bags.

As reported by photojournalist Geoffrey Buta in the June 13 issue of The Spectator, there is no case of the virus in the community but the enterprising young people there are being proactive.

Their Assemblyman is appealing for organisations and individuals to come to their aid with not only proper masks, but also other protective items, such as Veronica buckets, hand sanitizers and soap. I hope they get help!

Another flourishing virus-related activity is the manufacture of hand sanitizers. As can be expected, these, too, come branded. Curiously, apparently, even people with no relevant qualification have become manufacturers of sanitizers – as recent news reports of some arrests have revealed.  

Also, one should not forget the Information and Communications Technology specialists who undoubtedly are gaining business because so many students and pupils need their assistance with the online classes being offered by many educational institutions.

Still on masks, I guess by now people are accepting that the mask protocol is going to be around for a while. Yet, evidently some more education is needed on mask-wearing.
Too many people seem to think a mask is for the chin only; or that it should be around one’s neck just to confirm that the wearer has one. But maybe the President’s assignment to the police will take care of the compliance.

Mask wearing, too, presents some challenges: including finding the correct size for a good fit; and manoeuvring it if one wears spectacles. And it definitely doesn’t encourage conversation, as voices tend to sound muffled.  

Furthermore, a mask often makes it hard to recognise people – which of course could be useful if, and when, one needs a disguise!

Nonetheless, the importance of people everywhere masking up and implementing the other protective measures announced by the World Health Organisation to help beat the virus can’t be overemphasized.

A thought-provoking rationale was neatly expressed by an Oxfam organization official in a BBC interview a couple of days ago: “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

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