Like Dead Sea Scrolls and the Auschwitz shoe, the mask will be ...

World

Like Dead Sea Scrolls and the Auschwitz shoe, the mask will be our relic

From plagues to Pompeii, every historic catastrophe has left an emblematic footprint – a story of suffering

Peter Snow

Some time in the distant future, when Covid-19 is as remote a memory as the Black Death, a builder putting an extension on a pub will unearth two mysterious artefacts.

One will be a piece of jaw-shaped cloth with two little elastic loops on either side; the other, a scrap of torn paper with five words, barely readable: “Please keep two metres apart.”

It won’t take the archaeologists long to unravel the history of these two relics. The virus of 2020 will leave such material reminders long after we have all passed on. The personal story of most of them will never be known. But they will be real relics of a past calamity – one an individual’s guard against a lethal infection, the other a warning posted by a bartender...

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.