Face masks have become an essential part of everyday life for many people since the pandemic started. It’s been proven to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and is a relatively simple precaution to adopt. And yet there’s also a sizable number of people who refuse to wear one. Now, contradicting views on face masks are leading to many, sometimes violent, arguments around the world. Even in Japan, where wearing face masks was a norm even before the pandemic.
On Monday, Sept. 7, the pilot of a Peach Aviation flight from Kushiro, Hokkaido to Osaka’s Kansai Airport was forced to make an early landing when an unnamed man refused to put on a face mask, threatening co-passengers and flight attendants who insisted he wears one.
The airline said that a flight attendant had already asked the man to put on a face mask even before the flight took off, but he ignored the request. Staff again asked him to put on the mask during the flight but he also refused, NHK reported.
Another passenger caught part of the incident on camera and posted it on YouTube.
But eventually, other passengers started raising concerns about sitting close to the unmasked man and an argument ensued. It got so heated that the man reportedly raised his voice and accused his fellow passengers of slander. Cabin crew threatened to give the man a written warning for not complying but he still refused to wear a mask and allegedly replied: "If you can do it, give it a try."
The escalating argument forced the airplane captain to make an early landing at the Niigata Airport midway through the flight to escort the man out for causing a disturbance. The flight then headed to Osaka and arrived at Kansai Airport two hours and 15 minutes late, affecting the 124 passengers left on board.
“In order to ensure safe operation, we ask all passengers to follow the instructions of the crew members, and in order to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, we ask that you wear a mask unless there are special circumstances at the airport or on board," a representative from Peach Aviation said after the incident.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, this is the first time a plane made a temporary landing for a domestic flight because a passenger was not wearing a face mask. Masks are sold in many public spaces around Japan and were commonly worn to prevent the spread of germs even before the coronavirus outbreak.
In February, an elderly man aggressively confronted a young man for coughing without a face mask while on a train in Tokyo. In another instance that same month, a train in Fukuoka was forced to do an emergency stop after a man pushed the emergency button to report over the train intercom that a fellow passenger coughed without a face mask.