YIPPEE! It feels great doesn’t it? It’s almost like the last 17 months didn’t happen at all and we’re just continuing where we left off.
Admittedly there are a few minor changes, but they’re all positive ones. For instance, that ingenious little Victorian invention that has saved literally millions from dying of Covid: The face mask.
Whoever would have thought this wonderful symbol of human kindness would have ended up a permanent fixture in our society? You don’t have to wear them all the time now though … or maybe you do. It is a little confusing and many people are uncertain what they should do or indeed what they are required to do by law.
What follows will hopefully throw some light on what your moral and legal obligations are with regards to face masks.
It is widely understood now that face masks are not intended so much to protect the wearer, but to protect others. Therefore, regardless of what the rules are, you have a public duty to wear one in certain situations or you will be risking the lives of others.
Old people are particularly vulnerable and so we should be especially careful when in their company; for example when we are queuing. Old people love queuing and cannot stop themselves joining a queue whenever they see one.
Therefore if you are queuing for something, whatever it may be, then please put your mask on, as there are bound to be some senior citizens within spluttering distance.
Also, if music is your thing and you like to attend live performances then please consider what sort of age group the audience is. If it is a Rolling Stones concert, for instance, then exercise the same caution that you would in a care home setting, especially if you are near the stage.
Another section of society that we should be especially protective of is obese people. Obese people can be found in various types of social settings, but fortunately they move very slowly, even more slowly than old people, so you will have plenty of time to put your mask on if you see one.
Also try to stay two metres away from any obese people you may see. This might be difficult if you are in a confined space such as a lift.
However, an easy solution would be to get down on all fours and put your nose against the floor of the lift. As long as the obese person isn’t a dwarf then this should create enough distance between your facial orifices.
If you’re in a place that you think might be particularly popular with members of the obese community, then please keep your face mask on.
For example, it is vitally important that you exercise the utmost care when in fast-food chains. Rules will normally allow you to unmask whilst eating, but realistically you are no safer sitting down eating than you are when you’re walking around.
Wearing a mask whilst eating does pose a problem, but one simple solution is the horse’s nosebag technique. Cut up your meal into small pieces and fill your mask with your food. You can then just sit comfortably and nibble away without being a risk to anyone.
Ask for a straw for your fizzy drink and simply stick it out of the side of your mask/nosebag. You can then tilt your head to one side and hold your paper cup at an angle of 45 degrees when you want a sip of your sugary fizz.
With Covid variants such as the Delta and the Lambda now circulating, the middle-aged and even the young are also in danger. So if you are sharing an enclosed public space with young, old, middle aged or obese people then please put on your mask.
In addition, it is advisable to mask up when you are in an open space if there are people in close proximity, especially if they are young, old, middle-aged or obese. In fact it is best to put your mask on as soon as you leave the front door and keep it on until you arrive home.
When you return home, it will be quite safe for you to take off your mask. That is assuming you live by yourself. If you share your home with friends or family and they happen to be old, young, middle aged or obese, then that is a different matter, so please remember that charity starts at home.
Your family members are no more immune to your germs than anyone else and these are the people you care for the most. You should therefore if anything be even more vigilant when you are indoors with your own family and keep your mask on at all times.
If you share a bed with your partner, this is without doubt one of the biggest risk factors for germs and viruses. I am sure you do not have to be told that intimate relations with your partner are totally out of the question at the moment, but even lying next to them all night is incredibly dangerous.
We move around all the time in our sleep and so it is inevitable that at some point during the night you will be breathing in one another’s aerosols. Remember: Lying with your naked nose close to your partner’s aerosol could be fatal, so please ensure that you both put on your face masks before you go to bed.
So from an ethical point of view you will need to wear your mask in any indoor or outdoor setting including your own home, unless you live alone. I hope that like me you are a very ethical person, but if you are not and you just want to know what your legal requirements are then the following might be helpful.
Essentially, Boris Johnson has stated that wearing a mask will not be a legal requirement, but that there will be an expectation for you to wear one. You might say it is expectory rather than mandatory.
Members of the public and businesses might share this expectation, so if you enter an indoor public space without a mask. then some people might be surprised or even disappointed.
People with these expectations might even comment on your physical appearance. They might say things like, ‘Well I never expected to see that!’ or ‘Blimey, that was a bit unexpected!’
Staff members could get involved and they might expect you to leave. They won’t actually ask you to leave, because they have no authority to do so, but they will nevertheless be quite surprised when you do not leave.
There might be an expectation for the police to attend the incident. It is doubtful that anyone will actually call the police, because no crime will have been committed. Nevertheless, the police may arrive unexpectedly and not do anything.
Everyone will end up feeling quite let down and embarrassed for not living up to everyone else’s expectations and you will go home wishing you had not been responsible for such a disappointing non-event.
In summary, there is no longer a legal requirement for you to wear a face mask in public, but there is an expectation. Whether you decide to wear one or not, therefore, depends on whether you want to live up to other people’s expectations. And, of course, whether you worry about leaving a trail of destruction everywhere you go with your foul, Covid-ridden drool.
This article first appeared in Lockdown Satire on July 19, 2021, and is republished by kind permission.