The legal requirement for face coverings in enclosed spaces ends on Monday. What do people living in Breckland in Norfolk, which has one of the lowest Covid rates in England, make of the rule change and will they carry on wearing their masks?
‘I welcome more freedoms but I am still cautious’
“My plan is to continue to wear my mask in public places and I hope others will too,” says 45-year-old Ella Hoyos.
Ms Hoyos lives in the Breckland area of Norfolk, which currently has the second lowest rate of Covid infection in England with 82.9 cases per 100,000 people – roughly a quarter of the national average of 329.9 cases.
Only nearby North Norfolk has a lower infection rate, with 51.5 cases per 100,000 people.
“I will exercise caution,” she says. “I welcome more freedoms but I am still cautious because Covid has not gone away, it is still here and vaccinations are not foolproof.”
She says she will wear her mask in enclosed public spaces, like shops and restaurants.
“I’m going to continue social distancing as well whenever possible.”
She will not, however, be wearing a mask at work – because she is a freelancer who works from home.
‘Not everybody is going to be sensible’
“I think the government policy is rash,” says Graham Jeffs. “I think it is all very well saying people should be sensible but I think you only need to look at the crowds around Wembley to see that not everybody is going to be sensible, so I will keep wearing a mask.”
Asked whether it makes any difference that the area has one of the lowest rates of infections in England, Mr Jeffs says: “Yes, it offers reassurance but it does not mean it is not sensible to carry on wearing a mask and making sure I remain safe.
“I don’t like them [masks], I hate the things, but if it is going to keep me safer, and other people safer, then I will carry on doing it.”
‘I’ve got some friends who just want to go wild’
Harry Sullivan lives in nearby Thetford and works at a Covid testing centre.
“We should still wear the masks,” says Mr Sullivan, 28. “We should still be cautious.
“We should still have the rule of six to a table and people should still be using the track and trace app.”
Asked why Covid is currently spreading more rapidly in young people, Mr Sullivan says: “We are more outgoing, we huddle together more in groups.
“I’ve got some friends who will still abide by the rules and I’ve got some friends who just want to go wild.
“I can understand both sides – I get people want to stay safe and protect themselves and their families and I understand why people just want to get back to how the world used to be.
“In my eyes it is not going to go back to how the world used to be. We are just going to have to live with it.”
He says he tests himself three or four times a week in order to protect those around him.
“I could be a carrier with no symptoms and spread it. I don’t want to spread it.”
‘I don’t think the masks should go’
Carl Wakeling lives in Hunstanton but works in Swaffham, a market town in the heart of Breckland.
“I don’t think the masks should go,” he says.
“I don’t think they [the restrictions] should be opening up as as they are, especially in terms of travel.
“Everyone is desperate for a holiday and to get away from all of this. But I think it is too soon.
“The trouble is that for a lot of youngsters it is like the world is getting back to normal and we can go out and do this and do that and I think it is all too soon.”
You might also be interested in:
‘It is important to be safe, for yourself and others’
Dianne Wood, 19, lives in Pentney and works for a care company in Swaffham.
She has not yet been vaccinated and says she wants to wait “a bit for it to be tested more” before deciding whether or not to have the jab.
“We’ve not yet been told what will happen with the masks in work but I think we will have to wear them,” she says. “We go into people’s homes so I think it gives us peace of mind and them [the patients].
“I think on public transport and in shops I will be wearing my mask. I think the rules are a bit complicated at the moment.
“I think it should be one set rule across the whole of England really,” she says.
“I think it is important to be safe, for yourself and others.”