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Not wearing a face mask in shops is an act of supreme selfishness

PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 July 2020

Face coverings will soon be mandatory in shops.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Face coverings will soon be mandatory in shops. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Thank heavens we’ve finally got some clarity from the government on the need to use face coverings when we go out shopping – I just wish they hadn’t made such a dogs breakfast about coming to a decision on an issue that seemed pretty clear from the moment most shops reopened a month ago.

Conservative county councillor Kay Oakes is the latest to get into trouble over her use of social media. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSERVATIVESConservative county councillor Kay Oakes is the latest to get into trouble over her use of social media. Picture: SUFFOLK CONSERVATIVES

I don’t like wearing face coverings. I find them very awkward. They mist up my specs and I don’t wear one any longer than I have to. But I have been wearing a face covering every time I have been out shopping (except to a couple of small shops near my home where I am always the only customer and there is a protective screen) and consider it absolutely vital.

MORE: Government to make people wear face coverings in shops

Frankly I am surprised that more shoppers don’t do the same. Really if we are serious about trying to defeat Covid-19 and keeping people safe we all should be wearing them.

And I am even more disappointed to see so many shop staff not wearing them. There is clearly no need for checkout operators behind perspex screens to wear them – but shelf-stackers and managers checking on what is happening on the shop floor really should have their face covered.

The point of masks is not that they protect the wearer – what they do is prevent the wearer’s germs from spreading as they might otherwise. Those who don’t wear them probably aren’t putting themselves at any greater risk, but they are increasing the danger for other people. Put bluntly, not wearing a face covering in an enclosed space like a shop or on public transport is an act of supreme selfishness.

Which is why I have no sympathy whatsoever with these appalling anti-covering people like Sir Desmond Swayne, MP for the Middle Ages, who seem to think that it is the inalienable right of every Englishman to infect as many people as possible with whatever nasty bug they happen to be carrying this month!

There are, of course, exceptions to the face-coverings rule. The government has decided it is safe for hospitality premises to open this month and it is clearly ridiculous to suggest that people should have to wear face coverings in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops.

Last weekend I saw on social media a thread of people complaining about the Labour mayor of London Sadiq Khan being interviewed while not wearing a face covering. The film of the interview showed clearly he was sitting at a table at an outdoor cafe with a cup of coffee in front of him.

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As a journalist, I know it is not uncommon to interview a politician over a coffee. I also know it would be absolutely bonkers (and look extremely strange) to be sitting at a table with a coffee in front of you wearing a face covering. I sometimes wonder what planet some people live on!

Speaking of which, the face coverings debate this week left another Tory county councillor red-faced after Kay Oakes backed a Tweet by a former UKIP London Assembly member not to wear a mask.

MORE: Councillor performs U-turn on wearing face covering

As most in her party backed the Prime Minister’s decision to make wearing face coverings in shops mandatory, she said that she would comply with this – and had already worn one at the hairdresser.

I’m sorry but if you write (of, one assumes, your own free will) on social media that you’ll never do something and then turn round and do it as soon as you’re told to, you can’t complain if people question your decision-making abilities!

I know the Conservative leadership at the county council are getting quite exasperated about some of their colleagues’ use of social media. Ms Oakes was the third to get in trouble with that during lockdown.

One cabinet member said to me: “What’s wrong with these people? We’ve warned them time and time again about social media, and yet still this happens!”

That’s a very good point. As I said to that councillor: “We’re watching councillors’ social media threads. All councillors.” They give us stories – many are run of the mill and issues that they’re quite happy to talk to us about.

But if a councillor has publicly made a comment that is racist, offensive, insulting to a profession, or just plain daft then they cannot be surprised or upset if they are called out for that.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have a huge role in society today – I’m a keen user of Twitter myself – but the user is in control of it, and needs to understand that the idea of this is to get your views across to as many people as possible. And you shouldn’t complain when that happens!


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