Foreign residents in Norway have told The Local how they have faced xenophobic abuse for wearing face masks in public , with taxi drivers refusing to deliver them to their destinations , constant stares, one person even facing spitting .
” When you have a Chinese face and wear a face mask , the chance that people just briefly walking past you start to spit increased !” complains Yiting , a woman who has been living in Norway for fifteen years .
Like many Chinese people , Yiting was wearing masks long before coronavirus hit the country – both to protect herself from pollen and to keep her face warm .
But after coronavirus hit , she found the reactions from people changed dramatically , pushing her to start working from home before the lockdown was put in place .
” In March , I felt coronavirus was already in the town , so I started to wear a mask on public transport , and that was not a nice experience , so I started to work from home ,” she remembers.
Since then , she says , it has mostly been OK , she has faced some strange reactions when she’s been out walking in Oslo .
” If I ‘ m on the sidewalk and if I walk and someone walks towards me , when there ‘ s still quite a big distance that person will turn their face away from me , ” she says .” There have been a couple of situations where people , after they walk past me , start to spit on the street . ”
Perhaps the worst reaction came from a taxi driver , who became worried that she might be infected . ” The taxi river was not very happy and he dropped me off before we reached the destination .
The World Health Organization ( WHO ) recommends that people wear masks if they are in a crowded public place where it is not possible to keep a safe social distance .
But Norway’s health Authorities store are of currently not recommending That people wear masks page , with the Norwegian Institute of the Public Health Covid-19 Calculating for last month That 200 , 000 people Would have to wear masks page to Prevent a single new infection .
Yiting’s experience is far from unique . Many foreigners in Oslo have decided to stop wearing masks after the stares got too much .
” I actually stopped wearing a mask for short walks around the block , as people were staring at me like I’m an idiot who believes that covid19 can actually do harm to people , ” says Tamara .
” I felt uncomfortable every single time I wore a mask , but I wear it anyway because I’m in a risk group . I’m also a young person , so people don’t think I could be in a risk group , so they just look at me like an idiot . ”
She now only wears a mask when she’s on the way to visit the doctors , or go for a blood test .
” I just notice people staring at me constantly and avoiding coming near me on public transport more so than other people , ” says Leslie .” I suppose simply because it is fairly uncommon to actually wear a face mask here . ”
” When I landed in Oslo during May , I had a mask on and the taxi driver asked me if I have covid– 19 , ” says Claudette .” I explained that I am doing it to protect myself and those around me , but he looked puzzled . ”
Thomas wore a mask when shopping until mid – June , but said he didn’t have any problems beyond staring . ” I never had any bad reactions from others , just some stares . I noticed I walked more vigorously to give an impression of being healthy . ”
Yiting blames the Norwegian government’s position on masks for the public hostility , saying that because masks were not recommended , many people believed that people would only wear them if they had symptoms and were on their way to tested for potential coronavirus .
” For Norwegians when they see you are wearing a mask , they don ‘ t think you wear a mask to protect yourself . They think you wear a mask because you have been infected or live with some one infected . ”
She said she thought the government advice should change .” I don’t like that advice . It makes me a target or a suspect ! ” She complains .” I don ‘ t feel it ‘ s really a very comfortable experience wearing a facemask , especially if you have a foreign face . “