‘We have to be careful’: why are masks still worn in Japan and South Korea?

Covid cases are stabilising in the countries but many may continue to wear face coverings, even if rules change

For more than two years, the people of Japan and South Korea have been united by their embrace of little white rectangles. While the US and countries in Europe debated the efficacy of masks at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japanese and South Koreans quickly covered up, uncomplainingly and with few exceptions.

Explanations for the wildly contrasting coronavirus death tolls in developed countries are many and varied, but in north-east Asia – more than anywhere else – mask-wearing has been at the forefront of the public health response to the virus.

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