ON Friday, as mandatory mask wearing came into force in shops and banks, experts rightly claimed that the rules for their use are a ‘baffling muddle’. The head of the British Medical Association Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘While today’s guidance is in some ways helpful, the uncertainty of recent weeks has done nothing to inspire public confidence.’
In recent weeks, a sense of disregard towards wearing masks in public has been plain to see. In my Hertfordshire home town of Potters Bar, many people have frankly lost interest. I have lost count of the masks littering the pavements. One prime spot is an alleyway leading to the train station and its adjacent Sainsbury’s. Often they are irritatingly close to a bin.
Retailers including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Co-op and Costa Coffee say they will not enforce the policy. Is this not stark evidence of a government losing its grip? These companies are becoming the rule-makers.
In a letter to the Times on Tuesday, Mark Smith from St Albans said that during a visit to a petrol station, ‘about 20 people entered the shop: less than half were wearing facemasks, despite there being a message on the door reminding them of the new legislation. I mentioned this to the woman behind the counter and she said that they had a policy of “no confrontation”, which I can understand. Despite the fact that wearing facemasks is now required by law, in reality there is no one to enforce it’. His observation is spot on, and is further evidence of a growing complacency among the public as a result of ambiguous guidance from the government.
Last week a police officer told ITV News with a defeated sigh that, should police receive numerous complaints from shops of non-compliant customers, they ‘simply will not have the capacity to deal with them’. His clear lack of confidence seemed to echo a wider sense of despair, owing to constant mixed messaging. Spreading like a pandemic on social media last week was a joke: ‘It’s all right, according to the government you can’t catch Covid-19 in public till the 24th anyway.’