South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it struggles with dozens of daily cases, mostly in and around the capital Seoul.
To avoid a second major epidemic, the government demanded in June that masks be worn on all buses and subways, as well as inside taxis, drivers being allowed to refuse passengers without facemasks.But the typically hot summer of the country makes wearing the mask more and more uncomfortable, with temperatures regularly exceeding 30 ° C last month.
As a result, more and more people refuse to wear them or position them on the chin in order to leave the mouth and nose exposed.
The practice, dubbed “tuk sk” – tuk is Korean for chin – has triggered dozens of masked rabies incidents on public transportation, according to South Korean media.
Police said they recorded 840 fights in June, many of which involved bus drivers who protested with passengers who refused to camouflage themselves, according to the Yonhap news agency.
All but one of the 43 perpetrators facing legal action were men, said Yonhap, adding that most were between the ages of 50 and 60.
The incidents included a woman who was briefly detained after arguing with other subway passengers who asked her to wear a mask, and a man who was detained by police after assaulting a bus driver and a another passenger for insisting that he cover his face.
Fears of a heat stroke pandemic have prompted businesses in neighboring Japan, where temperatures are expected to skyrocket in July and August, to develop “cool” masks made from high-tech materials.
Sportswear maker Mizuno sells masks made from fabrics commonly found in their range of swimwear and sportswear, while the material used in Yonex’s Very Cool range includes xylitol, which, he says, allows the mask to dry quickly.
“As people spend more time wearing masks to protect them from the coronavirus, we hope that our technology will keep users cool in hot weather, even if only a little bit,” a A spokesperson for Yonex, which manufactures equipment for badminton and tennis, told Kyodo News Agency.
Last month, long queues formed outside Uniqlo stores before the release of face masks made from the clothing company’s lightweight summer fabric. Reports indicate that the items sold out within hours.
Other retailers have taken the theme a step further, with a knitwear manufacturer developing cool cloth masks with pockets for ice packs that he says keep the wearer cool for up to two hours.
Experts warned that wearing masks in extreme heat can cause breathing difficulties, increased heart rate and dehydration.
The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine advises people to take off their masks if necessary and to drink water at regular intervals.