Masks and face coverings
On 24 July, it will become compulsory for most people entering a retail environment in England to wear a mask or face covering. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to £100.
To many, this is not before time, for others it is against their civil rights and a control by the State. That debate is not one I intend to have here, other than to say for me, since lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister in March, I have worn a mask in every supermarket or public indoor space I have visited. I have no problem with it.
Why did I start wearing one? Initially due to instinct. Other nations were doing it, and I believed it wouldn't be long before it came in to force in this country. It was also to do something to protect those I love.
On 16 April 2020, as the UK was hitting its worst time for cases and deaths so far in the pandemic, I attended a webinar hosted by IOSH, one of the main professional bodies for the health and safety profession, in association with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Entitled Current risks, challenges and practical measures in protecting health workers responding to Covid-19, the webinar included important speakers from the WHO, IOSH and elsewhere. But it was one speaker, Professor Claudio Colosio from the Milano Hospitals, Lombardy, in Italy - who had been at the heart of the outbreak there in March, who convinced me of the real importance of wearing a mask.
Nearly everything he said in that presentation has now been implemented or recognised here, from the introduction of temperature checks and masks, to the numbers of asymptomatic people, various symptoms, and even the duration of the disease. He stated then that to avoid the virus spreading, countries such as Britain needed to "within five days" start contact tracing, stop all face to face meetings, and wear masks.
At the time, WHO were advising against wearing masks and face coverings, but Professor Colosio stated quite categorically that they should be worn as they help prevent the wearer spreading droplets for others to breathe in. Cases in Lombardy only started being controlled with these measures in place.
That convinced me that in all public indoor areas, such as shops, I would wear a mask or face covering. And I have stuck to it, and will for a long time.
Many of us have struggled over recent months, wanting to do something to help but not knowing what to do. Wearing a mask or face covering when you go to the shops is an easy thing to do. We already have to do it on public transport or in hospitals. The Scots have done so when shopping for a few weeks already, and at least 70 other nations already have rules on wearing face coverings. Masks are even recommended now by WHO as the scientific evidence has changed. The rules enforcing their use may be late arriving to England, but late is better than never.
If wearing a cover over a mouth and nose helps reduce the number of cases even slightly, then it is a success. The more that do so, the more successful it will be in preventing the spread of this awful disease, and the sooner we can get to a more normal life. Surely that is enough of an argument to wear one.
There are many memes going around the Internet at the moment all with the same phrase: "Mask it or casket - the choice is yours". It is very true, the choice is yours, but for me I would rather mask it than cause a death any day.
See also (external links):
UK Government: Face coverings - when to wear one and how to make your own
IOSH Webinar: Current risks, challenges and practical measures in protecting health workers responding to Covid-19
Slides used by Professor Claudio Colosio during the above webinar