As we approach the (revised) freedom date of 19th July, whereby Covid-19 restrictions are to be removed from our lives by Prime Minister Johnson and company, there are concerning claims that some figures in SAGE are pushing for masks to remain compulsory as we move into supposed freedom. The British Medical Association are amongst those calling for the continuation of measures post the 19th, with masks one of the main aspects that could continue. Whilst you could argue that moves such as this are worthwhile if they allow us to remove most restrictions, this seems like a precursor to permanent, tangible changes to our lives due to Covid. This would be unacceptable; this Conservative government must embrace individual agency and freedom, with the ability to choose what measures an individual takes to protect themselves at the centre of this. Fortunately, Robert Jenrick has come out saying that masks will no longer be compulsory, whilst Sajid Javid, the new Health Secretary, has been outspoken how we need to move towards living with Covid-19, as opposed to locking down against it.
There has been significant pushback against the removal of any mask mandate across some of the political spectrum. However, I hope the government stays strong and ignores this opposition. My main point of contention with the continuation of any mask mandate that makes their usage compulsory in both publicly and privately owned places, is that it removes personal responsibility and choice from the general public. It is for me to decide what measures I take to protect myself from Covid, especially now that the disease poses little threat to others, thanks to our remarkable vaccination programme. After spending over a year telling young people to curtail our lives, whether that be socially, professionally, or in our education, the government must now allow us, and the rest of the population, to act as we please, and fulfil our potential.
This is not to say that those that choose to remain cautious after restrictions are lifted should be criticised or ridiculed. Many have been fearful of catching the virus for a significant portion of time; it would be churlish to mock anyone who wishes to personally continue socially distancing, limiting who they see, or still wears a mask. But in this situation, we see highlighted the beauty of returning the British public to a state whereby we all have choice. Those of us who aim to return to our pre-pandemic lives as soon as possible, any lifting of restrictions will be welcomed with open arms. The fact that my life has been curtailed the way that it has still feels fundamentally wrong. Along side this warm embrace of ‘normal’, those that wish to remain wearing a mask can.
Overall, it is important to acknowledge how different the responses of members of the public to this final removal of restrictions will be. Friends and family will be divided by what they are comfortable doing; be patient with those close to you, this is not worth falling out over. This goes both ways. Come the time where I no longer have to wear a mask, I will not wear it. Do not judge this decision.