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The five objects that symbolise 2020
As we eagerly prepare to bid farewell to 2020, some aspects of its new reality look set to continue well into the New Year. Once the domain of health professionals, these five objects have become a familiar part of our daily lives, reports RTBF. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in 2020 being the year of the mask, the bottle of hydroalcoholic gel, the pair of gloves, the plexiglass barrier and the swab.
When Belgium went into lockdown on 13 March, there was no immediate obligation to wear a facial mask. Politicians questioned its usefulness in stopping the spread of the virus, yet within a few weeks the public was advised to wear a mask in crowded places. Now it’s an obligation for everyone over the age of 12, in shops, on public transport and in the street, particularly in the Brussels region.
At the beginning of the pandemic, masks were part of a worldwide shortage of personal protection equipment with frontline workers naturally being prioritised for supplies. Now, whether disposable, hand-crafted or in fabric, the mask has become a ubiquitous object for us all. Correct usage of masks is perhaps still lagging. Hands should be washed or sanitised before putting on a mask by its stings or loops; it should be fitted snugly over your nose and mouth and if it requires continual adjusting, you should try a different type or brand. Disposable masks are designed to be used only once, while cloth masks need to be regularly washed at a high temperature.
A symbol for frontline workers everywhere, from supermarket checkout staff to hospital medical staff and now restaurateurs, disposable gloves have similarly become a universal object. With careful handwashing recognised as being the best means of avoiding infection, some people prefer the additional cautionary practice of wearing gloves outside their home. Like masks, they need to be properly disposed of and placed in a closed bag before being thrown in a bin after single use.
Alcoholic hand gel is regularly carried around for those moments when soap and water are inaccessible. It’s another product that was in short supply in the spring. Pharmacies quickly ran out of stock during the first wave and in the face of a global shortage, the price of this previously banal item rocketed. Some people resorted to making their own and in response to the dearth, companies around the country switched to fabricating the precious liquid, including local whisky distilleries and artisan breweries. There’s no lack of it now, and every store or business is equipped with distributors at their entrance for a rapid hand disinfect.
The social distancing that has so sadly marked 2020 extends to everyday contact with people in pharmacies, supermarkets, administrative offices, taxis, etc. Plexiglass walls and barriers were quickly installed from March as an additional safety measure and to ensure that services and commerces could remain open. One Liège manufacturer recounted that in four days his company delivered the number he usually sold in two months.
To test for coronavirus, a swab is inserted into the nose. Before the pandemic, few people outside the medical field were subjected to this rather uncomfortable nasal intrusion. At the end of 2020, several million people in Belgium have undergone tests, whether in hospital, a GP surgery or in one of the many drive-in test centres set up around the country. Since the start of the pandemic, almost seven million tests have been carried out in Belgium for more than 630,000 positive cases.
Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus © Thum