lifestyle

I’m not ready to take off my mask just yet


Only last week I placed a (clean) pair of black Marks and Spencer knickers over my mouth and nose in lieu of my usual KN95 as I sat in the back of an Uber (Picture: Nicola Thorp)

I once saw a sign in McDonalds that read ‘No entry without shoes’.

I had many questions.

Was this a company-wide policy? Was a barefooted nugget-run a common occurrence among the clientele at that particular branch, or was it just one repeat offender? Was this simply a matter of social etiquette, or were naked feet a threat to our public health?

I don’t think I’ll ever get the answers I deserve, but when it was announced yesterday that we will no longer be legally required to wear facemasks after July 19, it got me thinking… Just because something is not technically illegal, does that mean we should do it?

As socially unacceptable as it is to enter a fast-food restaurant without shoes, as far as I’m aware, a verruca never killed anyone. 

Covid, however, has taken 128,000 UK lives and counting.

Though we’ve reaped the benefits of a successful vaccination programme and witnessed a decline in daily death rates, the airborne virus is still very much among us, and although it may not feel like the threat it once was, Covid cases in London hit a four-month high this week. So should we really be ditching them so soon?

Most of us took to mask-wearing with little resistance, while others responded to the public dress code policy like Jess Glynne at the entrance of Sexy Fish: defiant. 

Like most reasonable people, I never saw the requirement to wear a mask as an infringement to my freedom of expression, but as a mild inconvenience at a time of global devastation. 

I find masks as irritating as the next person. They itch, they give me spots, they ruin my lipliner and more likely than not, I’ll forget to take one with me. Only last week I placed a (clean) pair of black Marks and Spencer knickers over my mouth and nose in lieu of my usual KN95 as I sat in the back of an Uber. 

As inconvenient as masks may be, they’ve still provided me with a great source of comfort during an unsettling time.

Truth is, I feel far less anxious sitting opposite a mask-wearer on the bus than someone without, and that won’t change once the law does. When July 19 arrives and our social freedoms are returned to us in their entirety, I won’t feel particularly ‘free’ while in close proximity to a group of strangers without facemasks.

There’s no law preventing me from farting on a crowded platform, but it would be far more pleasant for everyone around me if I didn’t.

As inconvenient as masks may be, they’ve still provided me with a great source of comfort during an unsettling time (Picture: Nicola Thorp)

That’s not to say that people should be publicly humiliated for going mask-less, but I hope that people who choose to wear one won’t be berated either. 

While 43million of us have received our first dose of the vaccine, there are still people within our population for whom the vaccine is less effective. Immunocompromised people, or those undergoing chemotherapy, may be more susceptible to Covid even if they’re vaccinated, and on the off-chance I might be sitting next to them on the tube, I’d want them to feel more comfortable about sharing an armrest with me.

Public health issues aside, there’s something quite pleasing about the anonymity awarded by facemasks, and that’s not something I’m willing to give up just yet. 

Not only do they provide the perfect cover for hangover days, but they also work as an excellent disguise when you bump into an ex at Tesco (provided you’re not still wearing the hoodie he left behind during the break up). 

Speaking of supermarkets, if you haven’t exited the automatic doors of your Sainsbury’s local while ripping off your mask like the villain in a Scooby-Doo caper, you haven’t truly lived.

Facemasks have been the defining garment of the 2020/21 season, but I don’t think they’re about to go out of fashion just yet. Like many style trends, they began in the realm of the avant-garde then evolved into something more practical for the average consumer. 

Remember the photos that emerged in early March last year, of people braving the tube with plastic containers over their heads and gasmasks on their faces? Although we laughed at the time, they were true visionaries in the field of personal protection, even if their vision was a little steamy.

While some might feel relieved to see an end to mandatory mask-wearing, the virus won’t disappear. It seems wild to me that masks may soon become optional, at a time when cases of the Delta variant have risen by 46% in the past week.

There are certain choices we can make to reduce our chances of exposure to the virus. We can choose to swerve the birthday parties of the significant others of our less significant friends, but choosing not to take public transport isn’t possible for those of us who don’t have the option of a car.

So regardless of the law, as long as I’m in close proximity to a group of strangers who are standing within breathing distance of me, I’ll be wearing a mask.

And shoes. Don’t forget the shoes.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk 

Share your views in the comments below


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