The Great Big Cover Up
To mask or not to mask – that was the question?
Now the Northern Ireland Executive has made face coverings in shops mandatory from Monday 10th August 2020.
NR examines some of the issues around the controversial topic.
Mixed messages in a pandemic is bad policy. What’s needed most is clear, concise public communication. So what went wrong? Why did this simple task, the simple ask, to protect staff, shoppers, families and communities from a killer disease become so controversial?
Managing human behaviour and asking an entire society to comply is challenging in itself. Those that oppose face coverings claim it’s an assault on their personal autonomy and rights – but with rights, comes responsibility. Surely when it comes to a pandemic, each and every one of us has a responsibility to adhere to a simple, potentially life saving request? When that simple task/ask is not respected, then government has no option but to step in and make it mandatory.
‘You know it makes sense’ is a tired, old advertising slogan – which could easily be resurrected for the CoVid era.
The early conflicting scientific advice caused considerable confusion – but now, we know better and it’s clear. CoVid is a water droplet, air borne virus – and wearing a simple face covering can reduce spread. Remember that other old advertising slogan of years ago – ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’? They still do. It’s not about fear-mongering or making people feel awkward or uncomfortable, it boils down to basic good manners – respecting that you value every one else’s health and well being as much as your own.
For some people, with certain conditions, wearing a face mask is simply not an option. Some stores have implemented their own-store policies on masks, face coverings, and screens to protect their customers, staff and communities.
Health Minister Robin Swann initially appealed to Northern Ireland’s shoppers to wear a mask – or it would become compulsory. The First Minister and deputy First Minister have been clear that people should cover up their airways before venturing out, another political representative opted to flaunt the rules in some sort of gesture of defiance.
With some of the recent clusters announced originating in shops and a takeaway – it’s imperative that businesses take note.
The decision was taken as the R rate (the rate of spread in the community) increased in Northern Ireland. It needs to be below 1 to combat the spread – it’s currently somewhere between 0.8 and 1.8.
A brand new social etiquette for the 2020s has emerged – let’s call it ‘mask manners’. How can an employee manage a potentially challenging situation in-store?
If a customer refuses to wear a face covering, and they don’t have an exemption, you can decide to refuse them entry, according to advice from the Federation of Small Businesses.
Retailers will not have legal powers to enforce the wearing of face coverings on their premises, although they may choose to refuse entry to customers who refuse to wear a face covering whilst on the premises.
Retailers in Northern Ireland are not being asked to police the wearing of face coverings.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “It’s really about trying to give confidence to people who feel vulnerable and maybe have been shielding.
“We’re asking the public of Northern Ireland to work again with us around all of these issues and to listen to what we’re asking them to do.
“If people get to the position where we’re issuing fixed penalty tickets then we will have failed in telling people why it is important to do this.”
Ultimately, the liability for choosing whether or not to wear the mask rests with the individual, not the shop.
What are the simple ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching the mask.
- Inspect your mask for damage before placing it around your ears by the straps.
- Make sure to cover your mouth, chin and nose.
- Avoid touching the mask or removing it around people.
- Clean your hands before removing the mask by its straps.
- Store dry, clean mask in a resealable bag if you plan to re-use it. Or wash mask in detergent and hot water, once daily.
- Always clean your hands after removing the mask.
- A mask should be snug across the chin and nose— not loose.
- Don’t wear a damaged mask.
- Don’t wear the mask under your nose. It should cover the nose at the bridge.
- Don’t remove the mask within 4 feet of someone in public.
- Do not share masks.
- Children under the age of 2 and senior adults who have respiratory issues are not recommended for mask wearing.