From 24 July, face coverings were made compulsory in enclosed public places in England. This adds to the government’s existing rules of wearing a mask when using public transport enforced on 15 June. Recent legislation made by the English government gives police the power to ensure that wearing a face covering on public transport is upheld under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020. However, exemptions to face masks will not be mandatory for children under the age of 11 or those who suffer from health conditions or disability.
A recent YouGov survey highlights the different attitudes towards mask wearers and non-mask wearers showing that whilst those who wear masks feel better protected and set an example to contribute to the safety of the community, non-mask wearers feel differently. 76% of non-mask wearers find that wearing a mask is uncomfortable, 52% feel self-conscious, 47% feel embarrassed and 52% feel “silly”.
Britons display a reluctant attitude towards wearing a face mask in contrast to other European nations and even in Asia. According to the YouGov survey, 21% of Britons wear face masks in public compared to 85% of Italians and 86% of Spaniards. Meanwhile, within Asian nations, 79-92% of people are wearing face coverings in public spaces.
This poses the following questions for us to consider: how serious are governments across the world in enforcing measures to contain the virus? Why are the attitudes towards face coverings different across the world? Could it be that Asian nations are more complicit or is it deep-rooted in the country’s leadership?
Another YouGov survey suggested that Britons don’t wear masks because they don’t feel that it is necessary. Interestingly, this survey also suggested that the lack of politicians wearing a face mask in public has also influenced their decision.
But do masks actually work?
A shift in the advice provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shined a light on to the development of evidence supporting the use of face coverings, especially in places where social distancing is difficult. Face masks on their own cannot prevent the spread of the virus but by enforcing social distancing and other measures, the WHO says that this could reduce the risk of contagion. An article by The Washington Post draws upon the debate between asymptomatic transmission and the role face coverings play in it.
The Bottom Line
The stubborn attitude of Britons who refuse to wear a mask illustrates a selfish portrayal of people unable to care for the wider community. As Britons continue to flock to popular destinations like Spain and Greece, the vulnerable, the elderly and the ill continue to live in the bubbles of their homes away from their loved ones. Why can’t Britons wear a mask like everyone else?