Norwich Voxpop: To mask or not to mask?

Several months since coronavirus restrictions were lifted, including the compulsory need for face coverings, Maja Anushka went into Norwich to find out whether people were still choosing to wear them.

ABOVE: Maja Anushka

[This article was originally written for and published by the Eastern Daily Press.]

Married couple Bren and Nicholas Prendergast were “early adopters” of face coverings. They decided to wear them even before they became a common household item during the pandemic.

Bren and Nicholas Prendergast wearing their face masks in Norwich

But given their declining use in recent months, they said they now get strange looks from passers-by – simply, they assume, because they are still choosing to wear masks. 

Mrs Prendergast, a 56-year-old education consultant, said: “We started way, way, way before lockdown, but we’ve got clinical vulnerability in the home. “I’d rather just have a mask and hopefully avoid getting a virus that could be damaging to our household.”

Her husband, who is 57 years old and a guitar maker, agreed, adding: “Her parents are still with us and they are in their 80s, so they certainly don’t want it. That’s why we do it.”

With seemingly fewer people wearing face coverings as time goes on, Mrs Prendergast said the pair have even experienced animosity from “the odd one or two” strangers due to their personal choice. 

“It’s funny – we got glared at yesterday, and I’m sure it was because we were wearing our masks,” she added.

“I’m not bothered about them; they can do what they like. The trouble is that they are potentially the ones who could be spreading it.”

Stephen Halls said he had noticed a decline in the public wearing face coverings. He feels it is down to people “becoming a bit complacent”.

But the 71-year-old still wears his mask frequently – and always dons it indoors. 

“If it’s very busy outside, I’m still wearing it outside as well,” he added.”I think it’s the sensible thing to do. With Covid very much still around, it’s just common sense to wear your mask.”

Cat Stones, a small business owner who runs vintage clothing shop, Lowell, admitted she wears a mask in other shops as a show of respect, but not in her own. 

“The thing is, it’s eight hours in your workplace,” she added.

Cat Stones at Lowell Norwich Ltd

“If it gets busy I might think about wearing a mask, but more or less in my place I’m not wearing one. But everywhere else I will.”

When asked how many of her customers are still donning face coverings when they come into the store on Pottergate, the 23-year-old estimated that around 80pc of her clientele have hung up their masks. 

Those who do wear them are “mostly younger people”. 

But Ms Stones also said she doesn’t mind whether people wear masks or not, adding: “I’m leaving it up to everyone’s prerogative. Whatever makes people feel comfortable, I guess.”

In the run-up to the busier Christmas shopping period, however – Lowell’s first since opening in May – the owner admits she may have to reconsider her approach. 

She said: “Maybe when it gets busier towards Christmas, and we’ll be moving around other people quite a lot, I might ask everybody to wear their masks.

“If it does get to that stage, I probably will start wearing one in the shop again.”

Denise Ferley, who works in the tourism industry, confessed she did not wear her mask as often as she did before. The 63-year-old said people were “genuinely feeling a bit safer” and suggested this may be why there had been a decline. 

A discarded mask on Gentleman’s Walk

Siobhan, an animal handling student at Easton College, said she wore a mask “mostly at college” – except in classrooms, where they do not have to be worn. 

The 17-year-old, who opted not to give her surname, still her keeps her face covering on when she goes into shops. 

Asked whether she had noticed a change in people’s habits, she added: “Definitely. Hardly anyone wears them anymore, which I think is a bit sad because Covid is still present.

“A lot of people think that it’s not here anymore, but it still is.”

[This article was originally written for and published by the Eastern Daily Press.]

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