Go on the bus, the train, or head to any social gathering and you’re unlikely to see many face masks today. A year ago, the view was completely different, and the year prior even more so.
Since the relaxation of Covid rules, many of us have developed a pretty lax attitude to wearing facial protection when we’re out and about. And we get it, it’s nice to pretend Covid doesn’t exist sometimes.
But pretending doesn’t alter the reality. It’s important to remember that Covid still rages on – people are still getting infected, immunocompromised people are at risk, and many parts of the world are still vulnerable. Those with health conditions such as asthma, a respiratory condition just as Covid, are also worried about being infected.
Now, during Disability Pride month, many are pointing out that we all ought to be wearing masks to protect those who less protected against the virus and could suffer more severe consequences.
There’s also the question of protecting ourselves as cases rise. After all, how sick you get depends on how much of the viral load you acquire.
Professor Paul Hunter from the Norwich School of Medicine tells HuffPost UK: ”One of the little known facts is that even if you catch Covid whilst wearing a face mask you may not be as sick. How severely ill you get depends in part on the amount of virus you take in and face masks cut this exposure dose, reducing severity.
“My personal view is that whilst infection rates are high and increasing then if you are particularly vulnerable and have not recently had Covid it makes a lot of sense to wear a mask in crowded public environments. I also think it appropriate for health care facilities or other areas caring for vulnerable people to once again ask people to wear masks.”
In fact, hospital cases with Covid are expected to rise further, according to a UK Health Security Agency chief executive, who told of her concerns about the ability to treat other illnesses as a result.
Jenny Harries said it does not look as though the current wave has peaked, and urged people to “go about their normal lives” but in a “precautionary way”.
She said the majority of cases in the UK now are the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 and that the latter is “really pushing and driving this current wave”.
Harries urged people to utilise hand-washing, keeping distance where possible and wearing a face covering in enclosed, poorly ventilated places.
Disabled people, with compromised immune systems have to protect themselves and we should protect them too, say charities.
Alison Kerry, head of communications at disability equality charity Scope, told HuffPost UK: “Covid hasn’t gone away, and it still poses a very real risk to some disabled people.
“The continued spread of Covid infections puts some disabled people in an extremely difficult situation, where even going to the supermarket could be life threatening. Nobody should be forced to gamble with their lives.
“We strongly encourage everyone who can to wear a mask in crowded spaces and isolate if you test positive for Covid-19. Your choice will help the millions of clinically vulnerable people in the UK.”
Something to think about.