With face coverings becoming compulsory in shops in England and similar plans being mooted in Northern Ireland , Linda Stewart asks well-known local figures how they feel about the divisive issue.
Actor Charlie Lawson (60) is originally from Enniskillen but now lives in Prestbury, Cheshire, with his partner Debbie. He says:
“I wear masks only when I have to. The Government has enough problems, so I do what I’m told.
My heart goes out to anybody who has lost friends or relatives. No matter which way you look at it, it happens all the time and it is very unfortunate.
I do think that people who are vulnerable should be looked after and afforded every assistance for however long it takes.
I also think that the rest of us should be out there getting on with it, (although) it’s easier to say for me because I don’t live in a tower block.
We’re off to Majorca tomorrow and it’s compulsory in the shops there to wear a mask and compulsory when you’re walking around. I’ll be doing what I’m required to do.
I do have a jazzy one but, much to the chagrin of my fans, not a political one. I did think about getting one for the Twelfth, but I couldn’t find a manufacturer. I’m sure that wee shop on Sandy Row does them.
Right at the start of lockdown, we got surgical masks because we predicted what was going to happen by watching the news from abroad. It seemed obvious, especially when Boris didn’t shut the airports.”
Businesswoman Alex Best (48), former wife of George, lives in Surrey. She says:
“I am totally willing to wear a mask, but it’s a very ‘should you, should you not’ kind of thing.
If I do have to wear a mask, I’m all for it, especially if it stops a second spike. Where you can’t do the two-metre or one-metre social distancing, I think it’s quite important to wear one.
If I’m getting on public transport, I wear one of course. I haven’t worn them in supermarkets.
I bought a whole lot of masks about two months ago, the disposable ones, and I always carry one around in my bag.
I’ll do anything I can to help stop this second spike.
At the beginning, I wanted them to be kept for the NHS and I was worried about ordering them in case personal protective equipment wasn’t available for key workers.
My sister has a friend who is making masks and giving money to the NHS, so I’ve ordered some of those now. They’ve got dogs on them, of course.
It’s like wearing high heels — uncomfortable to wear, but you’ve got to get used to it.
I got an Uber last week and I had my glasses on and they did get steamed up.
It’s just one of those things, isn’t it? You’ve got to grin and bear it.
I tend to look at people with face masks and they look quite scary, but it’s the new normal and you’ve got to get used to it.”
East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson, from Larne, says:
“I do not agree with wearing face masks, and no, I do not wear one except when I have to, for
instance, when I get on the plane. I don’t buy them — I am given them at the airport.
I think it’s a ridiculous idea that we should force people to wear face masks.
A lot of the medical advice right through the worst part of the pandemic was that face masks were of little use.
One of the experts said it was like using sheep wire to stop a mosquito.
Indeed, at one stage an expert said that face masks might be a source of spreading the virus, as germs become concentrated on them and then the germs are passed on to different areas.
I think forcing people to wear them to go shopping is going to make economic recovery much more difficult and will place shopkeepers in an invidious position — how do they enforce it? Do they throw people out of the shops? Generally, I think it’s a bad idea.”
‘We mustn’t be blase’
Writer Carlo Gebler (66) lives near Enniskillen with wife Tyga and has five children, India-Rose, Jack, Finn, Georgia and Euan. He says:
“I am completely confused because the different so-called nations that constitute this place have such different rules — let alone we’re on the island of Ireland and our neighbour has a completely different set of rules again.
My wife is a key worker and after I heard that in England they would probably have to start wearing face masks, I went to my wife’s car and removed some of her key worker NHS masks, but then I thought better of it and put them back.
Today I went to the butcher and for the first time ever I
made myself a very attractive face covering with a woollen Barbour scarf.
As I entered the butcher’s shop, I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m meant to be wearing one of these’, and the butcher said, ‘I don’t know either’. We are all utterly confused.
I’m 66 and I wish to outlive all my enemies, so I’ve got to give myself the best chance of staying alive. I know somebody who’s had Covid-19 and I know from them that this is a really
serious and terrible thing. We really do not want to have it. I think we’re blase and we are wrong to be blase.
Masks are very hot and uncomfortable and you have to keep stopping yourself from taking them off. It’s like having a cast when you’ve broken something and it itches.”
Actor Frankie McCafferty (53), from Donegal, says:
“We have a few face masks. My wife and I have been in Belfast and wore them a couple of times and today we went shopping in Galway and wore one as well.
I find them a bit uncomfortable and I don’t like it when little children see people in masks — it’s upsetting for them — but I see the logic in them, especially in indoor places.
We ordered some online. They have a lining and an outer layer and they come in various plain colours. I have a kind of grey one. It seems a bit ridiculous, but the logic is that if you potentially have Covid-19 and you’re not symptomatic, you could prevent its spread.
But I think we need a bit of clarification because there’s a lot of confusion.
We were wearing ours today but most people weren’t, so clarification would be welcome.
I don’t think that you necessarily need one when you’re eating in the open air, or if you’re not close to anyone.
We went shopping indoors in a shopping mall and as soon as we stepped outside the first thing we did was take them off. I’d much prefer not to have to wear them, but I understand the need to.
I’ve seen some very funny masks, including one with a beard and moustache with various expressions. That’s the problem with them — people can’t see if you’re smiling or frowning.”
PR and talent agent Cathy Martin, who lives in Helen’s Bay with daughter Valentina (8), says:
“I have been wearing mine a lot in shops and I made sure to wear them when I travelled to Italy at the weekend. I got mine from designer Lisa McCabe in Enniskillen.
I’m very against the disposable ones. I think, for the
sake of the environment, we should invest in fabric ones, which I admit aren’t medical grade but which do the job of keeping our own body fluids in to a large degree.
They are annoying to wear, but I agree that they are a good thing to help discontinue the spread.
I have developed a few pimples which I haven’t had for more than 20 years.
I’ve haven’t always worn them right through lockdown, but since around the end of April I have put them on to go to the shops when I’ve remembered. I got one for my daughter Valentina too.”
Brian Smyth (45), a Green Party councillor, lives in East Belfast, is married and has a five-year-old son. He says:
“I have been wearing a mask for a while and I’m used to it now. I volunteered in east Belfast with food collections and deliveries during lockdown, so I was conscious of wearing my mask when I was coming into contact with people and their food parcels.
I don’t feel that wearing a mask is an imposition. I appreciate that masks are difficult for people reliant on lip reading, but there are clear face masks that people can wear, so maybe it’s time to shift towards those.
Wearing a mask in public is an expression of solidarity and concern for others. If we all wear a mask, keep washing our hands and observe distancing in public, we can save lives. This is still about saving lives — people are still vulnerable to this virus.
It’s important for people to go for reusable masks. They are safe and won’t end up littering our streets or in landfill in the same way that disposable ones could.
I’m using a Maradona mask that I ordered from a small business called TRiCKETT.
I’ve ordered a Man United face mask as well, so I’m looking forward to that arriving.”