The opinions expressed in this piece are that of the author and are not representative of the views of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.
CW: mention of death
On the 19th July, the British government is set to ease almost all COVID-19 restrictions in England, including those that require wearing masks while shopping or in large groups of people. Now, before we get any further, I would like to point out that in a practical sense, I hate wearing masks. My glasses make most masks steam up, said masks require frequent washing (unlike my glasses), and I dislike tasting my breath for hours on end–especially when I’ve had tuna for lunch.
COVID-19 cases are still rising. Although hospital admissions are proportionally lower than before, they are also increasing, and the government itself has said to expect more deaths. This isn’t a debate about whether the restrictions should be lifted–there are many more factors the government will be considering, rightly or wrongly, regarding their decision–but what taking responsibility means for me.
In Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Monday 5th, he said the onus of responsibility would be placed on individuals rather than the state. This means that the precautions that we continue to take, or don’t, are almost entirely up to us. Many have no doubt celebrated at the news; coronavirus restrictions have been challenging for many over the course of the fifteen-month lockdown. Returning to “normal” life will benefit both individuals and small businesses. I will also be glad about some of it–although the fact restrictions are easing two days after my wedding is frustrating to say the least!
Unfortunately, we do not exist in a vacuum. While people are struggling and dying around us, we should take our personal responsibility seriously. Wearing a mask might not be wholly effective at stopping the spread of COVID-19, but it makes an impact. Just as many people will be excited to ditch restrictions entirely, there are many who feel less comfortable with the idea of going back to life as it was “before”. We have lived for fifteen months in a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty. “Normality” is no longer normal; we can’t expect it to be. Masks have become a part of daily life, and going from wearing them in public to neglecting them entirely is a large leap to make.
Aside from feelings of personal security (after so long, I’m uncomfortable around large groups of people, especially if they’re maskless), I will be continuing to wear my mask as a courtesy for those who would feel more comfortable if everyone continued to put public safety first. In many ways, it’s become a symbol of protection against a virus that continues to run rampant throughout the world, and I’m okay with that. All things considered, for many it’s a minor inconvenience, and one that can easily be made for wider benefit.
In fact, I hope that mask-wearing becomes more prevalent long-term in our society. Perhaps not all the time, especially as we vaccinate fully against COVID, but when we are in extremely close contact–such as on the London Underground or in large crowds–or when we’re ill.
As a society, we’d become complacent. The pandemic has exposed our mortality and humanity’s inherent kindness–as well as our selfishness. I’m far from perfect, and claiming my mask wearing to be proof against my selfishness would be both foolish and erroneous. I do, however, believe it’s important to make a conscious effort to put others first where possible, and that’s what I’m doing here.
Besides, masks offer a pleasing level of anonymity. I’m both fulfilling my civic duty, as I believe best, and maintaining my privacy in a way that suits me. Can’t say better than that.
Image courtesy of Adam Niescioruk