Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeCOVID-19In a minority of one, the maskless would-be martyr

In a minority of one, the maskless would-be martyr


As Nicola Sturgeon announces that the Scots may have to wear facemasks ‘for years to come’, all I can say is how glad I am that I don’t live in Scotland. 

Since the new mask-wearing rules were introduced on November 30, I have refused to wear one and touch wood, fingers crossed, have got away with it.

In that time, I have been on buses, coaches, the London Underground, stayed in a hotel for three days over Christmas, been to the cinema and to the hairdresser, the beauty salon, nail bar and in many shops and supermarkets, blessedly mask-free. I have taken taxis all over the place. Only once have I been apprehended, and that was in Sainsbury’s, where a member of staff came up to me and asked: ‘Where is your mask, madam?’  I told him that I was medically exempt, and he nodded and went away.

In the hotel where I was staying, there were signs everywhere saying that masks were compulsory, and that anybody not wearing one may be reported to the authorities. Yet I did not wear one, nobody said anything and nor was I reported to the authorities.

I have also got away with not wearing a mask in a clinic where I went for hearing tests. I told the audiologist there that I didn’t believe in masks and he accepted it, although both he and the receptionist were wearing them, as were the other patients in the waiting room.

It is true that on buses I have been on the receiving end of some nasty stares, or as nasty as they can be when most of the faces and thus the expressions, of the other passengers, are hidden. It is also true that some people edge away from me as though I have got a deadly plague. My next-door neighbours, masked up to the eyeballs even when walking down the street, asked why I was not wearing a mask and I gave them the same response: ‘I am medically exempt.’  That, so far, has precluded further questioning although the truth is that I have exempted myself. I have no actual doctor’s exemption although if challenged, I have an exemption card in my wallet which I downloaded from a government site and which I can produce if demanded. So far, nobody has asked to see it.

The government website says quite plainly that if wearing a mask causes undue distress, you can exempt yourself from wearing one. In order to drive home the obvious fact that I am not wearing a mask, I make sure I am wearing bright red lipstick every time I leave the house. That way, I am making a clear statement that I am defying the rules and showing in no uncertain way that am proud to be mask-free. 

We were warned that we could face on-the-spot fines of £200 if we refused to wear a mask on the London Underground. Since the end of November, I have taken the Tube many times, always maskless, and have never been confronted or asked to see proof of exemption. I decided that if I was fined, I would refuse to pay it and go to prison for my principles if it came to that. I would be a martyr for the cause! But none of the Underground staff has said a word and nor have any of the passengers. True, there are signs all over the place saying that masks are compulsory, both on trains and in stations, but I have just taken no notice.  

The sad thing is that I seem to be in a minority of one. Everywhere I go, I am the only person, child or adult, who is not muzzled. It is monstrous that all secondary school pupils and children over the age of 11 have been told to wear masks in public indoor venues and on public transport. My neighbour, employed by Oxford University, says that she is required to wear a mask for work, even though most days she is the only person in the office. She also has to keep taking tests.

Actually, I am going further than not wearing a mask. I have never had a PCR or lateral flow test, not had the booster and am not going to have it, either in spite of Sir Chris Whitty telling me in the cinema that I must have it to protect myself and others. There are huge posters at bus stops and ads in every newspaper bullying me to get jabbed, but I ignore them all. And guess what? I have remained completely well, never had so much as a sniffle throughout all this so-called pandemic, while just about everybody I know who had had the jabs, the boosters, the tests and who never dares to venture out without a muzzle round their face, has had Covid or what passes for it. Most of my refusenik friends, the few I have left who are defying all the strictures, say the same.

The mask mandates in England at least are due to be reviewed on January 26 but if they are relaxed, as I expect them to be, I will place a bet here and now that the majority of people will continue to wear them and tell you that it is their choice. Such is the state of fear that governments don’t need to impose rules or threaten us with fines and imprisonment. We have become so cowed and terrified that we are imposing them on ourselves.   

I just wonder how many people will be brave enough to defy the First Minister in Scotland, if she carries out her threat to make her compatriots wear masks for ever more? 

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Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson is an author and journalist.

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