The move has been eminently more controversial than lockdown. A recent YouGov poll suggests that support for mandatory masks in shops is at 80 per cent, while support for lockdown was 93 per cent. However, the spread of the virus has been in decline for months, so the timing has raised a few eyebrows.
While the YouGov poll had a pitiful sample size - 1,600 - our recent Facebook poll on the same topic attracted 11,000 votes. The result was much more polarised with 53 per cent in support of the move. Was this indicative of conservative opinion or was it more reflective of a greater split in the general population? Four months earlier our lockdown poll was almost identical to YouGov's - support at 94 per cent after 13,800 votes. The disparity on face masks is huge.
In the days leading up to the introduction of mandatory face masks in England there does not appear to be an overwhelming enthusiasm for masks in shops. Richey went shopping on Wednesday and found that in one store - B&Q - not one person inside that store wore a mask. In the supermarket it was a different story, but still only around half of shoppers were masked up. Will the other half suddenly reach for their masks come Friday? Perhaps, but if you are unhappy and think the government is taking one too many liberties you can easily exempt yourself.
The Hidden Disabilities charity has produced an exemption card that can be obtained here. It costs 55p + postage. There are two exemptions handed down by the government that allow for ambiguity:
- If you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
- If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress