It is Too Early to Ditch Face Masks – Liberal Article
It has been only a week since the Government declared that face masks were no longer compulsory. However, various shops have still upheld masks as store policy. And even if they have not, many people are still choosing to wear a mask regardless, myself included. Consequently, we are in a strange limbo stage, where the lack of guidance is resulting in a muddled response from people.
After the UK announced that, as of the 19th of July, face masks would cease to be mandatory, there was a slight uproar. The WHO, for example, is still urging people to continue to wear face masks even if they have been vaccinated. They believe that maintaining social distancing, good hygiene, and wearing a face mask are essential to keeping COVID at bay. Moreover, although England is taking a more relaxed approach towards mask enforcement, the rest of the UK is still promoting their use. Nicola Sturgeon has stated that face masks will remain mandatory for some time in Scotland. This is despite lockdown officially ending. Wales has also continued to enforce face masks in certain social settings.
Therefore, given other countries’ reluctance to fully abandon face masks, has England’s approach been too rash?
The research around the effectiveness of face masks early on was highly contentious and conflicting. Some studies have found face masks to be highly effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus. However, not all studies have had such positive conclusions. That said, given the fact that many countries enforced face masks early on during the pandemic, and that the WHO urged people to wear them, there was clearly enough evidence to justify face masks.
Ultimately, as face coverings sit over the nose and mouth (when worn correctly) they should reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets. As a result, by wearing a face mask, you are helping to protect others. Admittedly, research over whether you are protected when wearing a mask is less strong. Despite this, the former point alone should be enough incentive to wear one.
More recent research continues to suggest that face masks are effective, to different extents dependent on the type of mask. Thus, the wealth of evidence in favour of the use of face masks continues to grow as the pandemic rages on. This then begs the question as to why we are choosing to ditch face masks at such a crucial time.
Obviously, my liberal political views would suggest I am a fierce advocate for preserving and upholding freedom. Therefore, why would I support the continued enforcement of mandatory face masks? Well, although I certainly do greatly value our individual civil liberties and freedoms, the matter of a face mask is, in my eyes, entirely trivial. Wearing a piece of fabric across my face when I go into shops does not remotely impact me. Nor does it impact most other people. Needless to say, those who are medically exempt from wearing a mask should not. However, for the vast majority of people, wearing a face mask is really not that taxing.
The negative social and psychological consequences of face masks in everyday life have, of course, been flagged. Reading and understanding facial expressions have undeniably become harder. And with that, our social interactions become compromised. However, although genuine downsides, it is a mere price to pay to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and potentially save lives.
Now that nearly 90% of the UK’s adult population have received at least their first vaccination, and 70% their second dose too, the country is opening up again. And it should do. However, I personally feel that we may have abandoned all restrictions too early. We have gone from zero to one hundred at an exceptional pace. Despite this, I admit that we do need to learn to live with the pandemic and return to a large degree of normalcy. This is for the sake of our economy and our own mental health. But the country can open up whilst we continue to wear face masks. There is no need to abandon this policy when they have very few negative consequences.
For years prior to our current pandemic, face masks have been ingrained as a part of daily life in a number of Asian countries. They are widely worn in large and bustling cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. Unlike in the UK, wearing a face mask in parts of Asia was a cultural norm before COVID-19 was barely the global pandemic it is now. They are commonly worn by people when they feel ill in order to protect the people around them, or even simply during cold and flu season. Consequently, face masks are expected; they’re normal.
Arguably the UK needs to continue to enforce face masks. We need to establish them as part of our everyday life, just as many Asian countries have done. The evidence in favour of them is simply too strong and overwhelming to ignore. Moreover, even if research was not as conclusive as it is, even the chance that face masks may help prevent the spread of corona is surely convincing enough?
Therefore, I agree that we now need to begin to go back to normal, if not now then soon. But there is nothing to stop us from doing that whilst donning our favourite face mask.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Beccy Reeves
Point of Information
I’m inclined to agree, but I’m very conflicted over face masks – A Labour Response
I think that when the rules changed on the 19th of July, I wasn’t really sure where I stood on this issue. Quite honestly, I’m not really sure where I stand on the issue now. On one hand, we do need to return to normality and so giving people the right to choose whether they would like to wear a mask or not is vital in that. On the other hand, it’s really not that big of a deal to wear one so what’s the problem?
The idea of being on public transport or a busy shop without a mask makes me feel slightly uneasy at the moment. This is particularly because of how many daily cases there are at the moment. In places like that, I’m inclined to say that masks maybe should be required, for the sake of better public hygiene.
As I say though, I’m very conflicted on this issue. I will personally choose to wear a mask for the time being. Moreover, I also actively encourage others to do so as well. I just can’t decide if we should be requiring people to wear them as strictly as before. This is largely because I know many people will see it as an infringement of their freedom.
I suspect that there’s no easy answer to this problem. If case numbers get worse and we end up in another lockdown at some point, then we may well wish we had been stricter about mask-wearing. Perhaps only time will tell.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe
With the lifting of restrictions, this was inevitable, it won’t stop me choosing to wear one though – A Conservative Response
The easing of restrictions may have come too early, it may have come at the right time. Knowing which will only come with time. What is for sure is that the government was desperate to ‘free’ the nation as soon as possible. It wasn’t going to get caught a second time promising a Freedom Day that was again delayed.
The Government wants people to return to normal and salvage as much of the economy as possible. And, really, most people want to get back to normal too. They want to go to the pub, go to the office, go into shops, restaurants, theatres and forget as much as possible about the last 18 months. How can we do this if we are still being forced to wear masks everywhere we go?
At some point, we needed to move forward. We can, by all means, leave it up to people to wear masks and encourage them to do so. But the decision had to be handed back to the individual rather than the government at some stage. It is not possible for restrictions to be lifted and normalcy returned to if there is still state intervention to this level in people’s lives.
No-one is being asked to stop wearing masks. And with cases and deaths still prevalent, people need to acknowledge the responsibility they have to limit the spread and protect others around them. I am certainly going to continue wearing my mask. The virus isn’t going away anytime soon. But we need to learn to live with it, not in fear of it.
Masks are a minor but very visible and present issue when it comes to the current state of England’s coronavirus situation. By far the more pressing issue is the take-up of vaccinations. I would argue that this is going to cost far more lives and elongate COVID’s lingering shadow significantly more than masks are.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alex McQuitty
I am a third-year student at the University of Exeter, studying BSc Politics and International Relations. After graduating in the summer of 2020, I will be completing an MSc in Applied Social Data Science. I will also be the Treasurer of the Politics Society, as well as of the Uni Boob Team for the 2020/2021 academic year.