‘If it saves a life, wearing a mask is worth it’

Peter Barnes Image copyright Peter Barnes
Image caption Peter Barnes thinks the policy is a good idea

Peter Barnes, 29, came down with Covid-19 in March and made a full recovery. So it’s perhaps not surprising that he is happy about the government’s plan to make wearing face masks in shops compulsory in England from 24 July.

The political consultant from London was bed-bound with the virus for nine days and could barely eat.

“I think it’s an incredibly self-centred opinion if you’re refusing to wear a mask because you are mildly inconvenienced while buying a loaf of bread,” he tells the BBC.

“If we can save one life, then wearing a mask in the supermarket for an hour or so has got to be entirely worth it.”

However, Mr Barnes thinks the government has “confused people” in the past with its policies, and fears it will not properly enforce this one.

‘Quick to judge’

He also worries that false information about face masks is spreading on social media and might stop people from following the rules.

“Think about other people. You might not get it, but you might give it to someone else.”

Image copyright Daisy Simpson
Image caption Actress Daisy Louise Simpson experiences anxiety when wearing a mask

Not everyone thinks the government’s plan is a good idea, however. Daisy Louise Simpson, 32, has severe asthma and says the new rule is stressing her out.

“With my asthma as bad as it is, I struggle to breathe [and] the mask adds another complication,” the Essex-based actress says.

“People are already quick to judge – I worry that if my asthma is bad, will people assume I have coronavirus and be abusive?”

Ms Simpson – who has had to go into in intensive care because of her asthma in the past – says masks also give her anxiety as she is reminded of times she has needed to use ventilators to breathe.

The government has said that people with certain disabilities will be exempt from wearing masks, but is yet to say which conditions will be included.

“If you can wear a mask, you should do it. It shouldn’t be up for discussion,” she stresses.

“But I don’t think it should be mandatory – I think we risk the possibility of ostracising disabled people.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Some unions and business groups have warned that making shoppers wear masks could “trigger abuse” from some customers. Some also fear it will put some shoppers off at a time when retailers need consumer confidence to return.

JD Sports chairman Peter Cowgill told the BBC’s Today programme on Tuesday the move was likely to impact footfall, particularly at indoor shopping centres.

“I think it’s the inconsistency and the indecisiveness of the messaging that impacts consumer confidence,” he added.

“Maybe it will be a positive for older customers, but a deterrent for younger ones.”

Antiques shop owner Mary Foster in Weybridge is most concerned about how security will be affected.

“We have already had two robberies and three attempted robberies,” she tells the BBC. “I think people will feel more empowered to try to steal things [if they come in wearing masks].”

Ms Foster’s shop has CCTV cameras, which have so far been useful in apprehending two suspects.

If all customers wear masks, however, the video cameras will be unable to identify individuals, and she says it is not realistic to expect customers to take their masks off and pose for a photograph on entering the store.

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