Face masks are a symbol of the pandemic era – a visual metaphor for the tiny, unseen viral foe that could be lurking around any corner. Some opt for a scarf wrapped around their face, others make do with a t-shirt yanked up over their mouth. The more creative hook colourful homemade varieties around their ears, while a lucky few wear distinctive surgical masks or, rarer still, N95 respirators.
While a few months ago anyone wearing a mask in public would have drawn stares in many countries unused to this behaviour, they are now a reminder of the strange times we live in. And as governments around the world start to ease their lockdowns to allow their citizens out to mingle in the wider world again, growing numbers of people are opting to wear face masks in public