Why is there a problem with face masks?

Georgina Littlejohn tackles the face mask debate.

To face mask or not to face mask? To me, there’s really no question...

On July 24, the government finally decided to make the wearing of face masks or face coverings mandatory in enclosed public spaces including shops and supermarkets.

Many questioned why it had taken this long considering the country was now slowly coming out of its lockdown. Surely this should have been the advice from the start?

There were many, like myself, who had used their own common sense and wore them in public from the very beginning of the pandemic, even before the official lockdown began.

I always looked on it as a small inconvenience, something that was necessary to curb the spread of this potentially fatal disease and protect myself and others around me.

And actually, as the weeks went on, I started to look on it as not only a safeguard against this novel virus, but as a new fashion accessory and I amassed a rather nice collection of face masks from various seamstresses and designers.

But as I embraced the ‘new normal’, I noticed that many were not happy about this new rule.

I visited my local high street on July 26 and was pleased to see that most people were complying.

But I also wasn’t surprised to see that quite a few weren’t wearing one, and even more baffling were those who were wearing them under their chin or their nose – are these people immune? Immortal? Or breathe through gills, perhaps?

I also found this to be the case on the handful of times I have used public transport in the last four months. I even glared at one teen who yakked away on her phone while her mask dangled from one ear. She looked at me sheepishly and quickly put it on properly and although I nodded at her to say thanks, I felt embarrassed I had shamed her into doing it – but she also clearly knew she was in the wrong.

A couple of shopkeepers and cashiers I spoke to told me there were some who swaggered into their stores without a mask and with a look on their faces as though they were prepared to be confronted about why they were not wearing one.

Last week, the Co-op supermarket chain reported a sharp rise in abuse from customers towards its staff since the new face mask rule kicked in.

Is it ignorance? Arrogance? Being contrary for the sake of it?

It’s hardly surprising as the advice about the use of face masks from the powers that be from the World Health Organisation to our own government has been contradictory from the start. But surely it’s up to us as individuals to use our common sense and take responsibility for our own actions?

Of course there are those that can’t wear a mask for physical or mental health reasons, and are exempt from wearing one and I have every sympathy for them.

But it’s still baffling to me that those who aren’t exempt still refuse to wear them, screaming that their rights are being violated. I wonder if they think the same and would kick up a stink when they get into a car or on an aeroplane and put a seat belt on?

I suspect not.

I believe that despite the second-wave doom-mongers, we are over the worst of it now. I may be wrong and one will hit this winter on top of the flu season we already deal with when the cold weather kicks in. But whatever the case may be, surely a few minutes of inconvenience is better than tens of thousands more deaths come December?

I shall carry on wearing my masks until I am no longer needed to. And to those who refuse, I wish you the best of luck – and health to you and yours. Because you might actually need it.

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Georgina Littlejohn

Georgina Littlejohn is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience specialising in general and London news, entertainment and music. She cut her teeth in TV writing for news, sport and showbiz programmes before moving into print, starting at Associated Newspapers where she worked across the board from the Metro to the Standard to the London Lite before ending at MailOnline, where she was one of the senior showbiz reporters. After going freelance and working stints at the Mirror, the Sun, Music Week and Closer magazine, she took a career break in 2014 to work for theatre impresario Bill Kenwright as his Head of Communications. After a year as Senior Homepage Editor for MSN, she is now back freelancing and currently working for the i newspaper and its award-winning website. Georgina also volunteers as a kennel assistant for the Mayhew and as a befriender for Age UK.

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