While many have found cause to celebrate, the lifting of lockdown rules comes amid more than 50,000 daily cases of coronavirus in the UK, with one in 95 people testing positive in England last week alone.
However some people are choosing to ignore the so-called extra freedom and continue to wear masks to protect themselves and those around them.
Tyla spoke to Dr Ashish, Gogodoc medical director, about the lingering apprehension around wearing masks. “While the legal requirements from the 19th July allow people to no longer wear face masks, they can and still should wear masks if they wish to," she said.
"Many people remain concerned or anxious regarding the risk of Covid-19 and may be worried that the restrictions are being eased too soon. Given the rising numbers of the Delta variant, this can be further reinforced.
"Secondly, many people have underlying illnesses and some may not have been fully vaccinated, therefore they may prefer to continue wearing a mask in public for peace."
Dr Ashish also notes that wearing a mask does not affect a person’s ability to build immunity from the common cold or getting flu viruses. “While it may reduce the risk of catching the virus, viruses can still spread through a number of ways other than just the mouth and nose. So, people who choose to wear masks should not be concerned regarding this.”
Tyla spoke to three women about their decision to continue wearing a mask.
Isabella Coombes, 28, from London, works in PR, no pre-existing medical conditions
Isabella intends to wear a mask on all public transport, crowded indoor spaces and in shops. She has had her first vaccination but feels wearing a mask “makes sense” as she believes ‘Freedom Day’ was “rushed” and feels like a “reckless decision.”
“Wearing a face mask is proven to reduce the risk of Covid spreading, so I'll continue to wear one until that risk is eliminated.” she said.
Despite lockdown coming to an end, she she feels fine about continuing the wear mask while some of her friends looked forward to no longer having to wear a face covering. “I'm doing it out of respect and courtesy for those who are more vulnerable than I am and will continue to do so. I would rather wear the mask and have a reduced risk of me spreading the disease.”
Her family feel the same as she does as do some of her friends who are roughly between 25-35. “We will continue to assess risk and wear a mask to protect the most vulnerable, and any frontline workers in shops, on transport - the NHS.
“I’m wearing one to protect the most vulnerable from the spread of Covid. And because I’m happy to make a very small sacrifice out of courtesy to others. I hope by wearing one, it will make certain people feel more comfortable.
There have been a few moments during the pandemic when she has particularly happy to have a mask. “There was one occasion I felt like there was a real risk to my health on a bus in central London last summer, as it was so hot and packed with people, that stands out as a time I was happy to have my mask on.”
Chloe Faulkner, 28, from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, has a compromised immune system
The restrictions on mask wearing is set to be lifted in Northern Ireland on Monday (26th July). Chloe has a compromised immune system due to anorexia nervosa which she has now recovered from. She had to isolate for medical reasons and whenever she would go out she always had a mask on.
Chloe works at a local deli and comes into contact with hundreds of people each week. Although the restrictions are lifting, Chloe is adamant on wearing her mask despite being vaccinated. “I wear a mask at work and when out and about and when I’m at work. I’ve been wearing mask since we first locked down in Match 2020.
While this [change in mask regulation] will mean we don't have to wear them while working, I'll still have mine on because I happen to know a number of people over here are refusing vaccination.”
Chloe is concerned about the spread of other variants and is aware that being vaccinated does not completely eliminate someone from spreading the virus.
“Yes, my risk is reduced as I've had both injections, but infection is still possible. This is especially true with the variants currently going about.
“I personally believe that it's common courtesy to wear one when in enclosed areas. In fact, it's been the done thing in many countries long before Covid during times of flu.”
Jupiter Hadley, 25, Community Manager for a Roblox Gaming Company, Harlow, England, no pre-existing medical conditions
For Jupiter, the decision to continue to wear a mask after ‘Freedom Day’ was a no-brainer. She wears a mask whenever she goes out to any indoor public buildings, outdoors, in open spaces and in cars if she is with people who are not in her family.
She feels the number of people she saw in public wearing face coverings when she was out and about before ‘Freedom Day’ happened. Jupiter is the step-mother to her partner Dann Sullivan’s three children. “Going to public places like the kids’ school, where they were enforcing the mask rule previously, now has a low number of people wearing masks and they no longer do anything about it. People feel that, with the vaccine going around, there is no reason to.”
People have pointed out that she no longer needs to wear a mask when she is out and about which she says feels ‘quite judgey.’
Jupiter has received her first vaccination dose and is eagerly awaiting her second. She doesn’t plan to stop using a mask once she is fully vaccinated. “As people, it is our responsibility to protect each other, and those who have been not wearing masks, claiming they cannot wear masks for reasons that aren't truthful - those types of people are the ones that seem very selfish."
On ‘Freedom Day’ she was disappointed to see so many people on social media celebrating no longer having to wear a mask despite the covid still being a threat. “Freedom day shouldn't have happened yet, but at the same time, so many people were ignoring the rules or stating they
didn't apply to them anymore, that it didn't make too much of a difference. Those who have been wearing masks all along will continue, people who didn't want too will continue to not.”