The charging bull in New York's financial district, the statue of Rosa Parks in Dallas, and many other statues all across the world are now seen wearing masks. Such is the effect of COVID-19 hygiene culture on society. Habits such as wearing masks and gloves to go grocery shopping, or washing hands for 20 seconds and coughing into one's elbows have all become the new normal. These practices are going to become embedded in society. In 2003, a study was conducted in six major international airports during the aftermath of the SARS outbreak. Researchers observed that 95% of males and 97% of females washed their hands in the public restrooms. Such high levels of hygiene management were a direct effect of the outbreak. Now, the world is facing a pandemic of much greater proportions and daily life has ground to a complete halt. Before, people were cautious while outbreaks lasted, but now people are vigilant to do absolutely anything to prevent another such outbreak from happening. Social media has now been flooded with #SafeHands and #HandwashingHeroes movements. Workplaces, colleges, and schools are mandating masks, and in some places such as California, people are fined for not wearing masks in public. Good hygiene is becoming embedded in culture and even after the pandemic ends, the newly established emphasis on hygiene culture will remain.
COVID-19 has definitely transformed hygiene culture in the past months. But these changes are only temporary. If and when a cure is found for COVID-19, people will quickly realize that wearing masks or practicing social distancing is not really a necessity. As sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps become increasingly more expensive, there will be a huge backlash against them. This is because of the "hygiene hypothesis". It explains that some bacteria present on one's hands are actually quite important in preserving health. Thus, products such as sanitizers will not be promoted and their influence on hygiene culture will die down. Eventually, people will revert to practicing hygiene the same way they did during their pre-COVID days.