Please, just wear a mask!

The only reason I have been going out at all is to get food, from M&S. I try to go when I think it is not crowded. I wear a mask, obviously. I actually wear one all the way there and back (a couple of miles walk each way). People cross the street or walk in to the road, as do I, when passing, even when they too are wearing a mask (as many are). Everyone is sensible.

Today I was rather surprised to see a member of M&S staff with no mask, but the bigger issue is that he appeared to have no concept of social distancing.

Social distancing

What really shocked me was not just the lack of mask (see below re exemptions), but the total lack of any social distancing.

I witnessed him bumping in to other members of staff. At one point, whilst waiting at the till I suddenly realised he was right next to me and I had to step back.

It is not clear what he was supposed to be doing - he seemed to be literally aimlessly wandering around bumping in to people - almost trying to infect as many as possible - well that is how it seemed to me.


Of course, the immediate answer from anyone is "he could be exempt". There are two main reasons for this - medical condition, and severe distress.

I find it hard to imagine a medical condition where the wearing of a mask, or even a simple clear visor, causes a clinical effect which does not also make you a MASSIVE risk for COVID, so much so that you would obviously be sheltering / isolating at home all year. If there is such a condition, please educate me. But someone that has adverse clinic effect to a face visor will really have a problem with an oxygen mask or a ventilator.

However, the other reason, and far more likely to encounter in the wild, I am sure, is distress / anxiety. I know someone that has significant distress wearing a mask, thankfully she is OK wearing a visor (I know they are not as good, but at least they block spray from your mouth going directly to the person in front of you, and they meet the legal requirements). I'd rather people wear a proper mask obviously.

Now, let's put it like this. I am sure there are people who would rather not wear clothes. Should they be allowed to go naked if clothes cause them distress or anxiety? Well, society has made a decision balancing this and knowing that people wandering around naked in public causes *others* distress and anxiety. As such the law, at least in practice, is you have to wear clothes regardless.

There are people, in the middle of a pandemic, who find encountering others with no mask in a shop a cause of distress and anxiety. So morally, ethically, why does the mask wearers distress and anxiety trump that of those around them? What is the balance here for the law?

I am no expert on ethics, but that is a serious question. Someone explain it to me.


There are government recommended badges saying you are exempt. Now, there is a whole issue with "having to declare that you are disabled". I fully understand that. But if you are wandering around a shop with no mask you are blatantly declaring that you are "disabled, or a total dick". The badge at least just declares you "disabled". Even so, THE VIRUS DOES NOT CARE THAT YOU ARE EXEMPT!

M&S policy?

The other issue, taking the fact that some people are genuinely exempt under current law, is the policy of his employer.

As an employer myself, if one of my staff was genuinely exempt from wearing ALL types of face covering allowed, I would not have them working where they are in the same room as other staff or public. I would have them working from home, working alone, on sick leave, or furloughed. In fact I think we'd do that if they simply could not wear a proper mask. I would never want to risk one of my staff infecting someone whilst working for me. THE VIRUS DOES NOT CARE THAT YOU ARE EXEMPT!

Indeed, I am surprised HSE don't have that exact policy for employers.

So M&S, don't you have any policy on this?

M&S reply?

I am at a loss. They totally ignored that he was not keeping any distance. If I had complained about someone *with* a mask not keeping their distance then would they have been so dismissive.

It is like they think that a Sunflower Lanyard is magic - giving the wearer total immunity to any rules and the virus itself. That is scary.

The more I think about the mask exemption, the more I think the government have got it wrong. Some with disabilities seem to agree...

And to be clear, if the government did not have the mask exemption (which would make it way clearer for shops properly banning people), they would have to have found other ways to support those few with genuine reasons not to wear one. But that would have been way better and clearer and safer for all.


  1. My local Morrisons seems to be worse. When I go out (even if I drive) I wear a mask from before I leave my home to the moment I walk back in my own front door.

    So imagine my surprise/shock that when I went to Morrisons last week I saw 2 members of staff without a mask. And worse still these 2 staff members were working on the Fish & Hot Food counters, breathing all over this fresh unprotected food they are selling you...

  2. Maybe he IS trying to infect as many people as possible. How else are THEY going to keep the number of cases high.

  3. > So morally, ethically, why does the mask wearers distress and anxiety trump that of those around them?

    Without taking a view on whether or not the law should be that people have to wear a mask (personally I wear one in shops but not outdoors):

    The obvious difference is that you're asking others to change their behaviour to reduce your distress, and they're not asking anyone else to change their behaviour.

    1. Hmm, nice try, not one I thought of. However, those wanting to not wear a mask are being the exception here. They want an exception to the rule everyone else has to follow so as to reduce their distress, compared to me that just wants everyone to follow the same rule. So not convinced.

  4. This whole exemption thing has annoyed me ever since masks/face covering became a requirement.

    I will happily defend the right of someone to not wear some form of covering if they can't or won't, but I will not defend their right to then carry on about their life without any mitigating modification to their behaviour.

    I wear a covering to protect others and I'm happy to do so. People not wearing coverings need to step up and do their bit to protect others as well.

    Need to go into a shop/potentially mix closely with others? Wear a mask, full stop. If you can't wear one, arrange for others to do your shopping for you. This should have been mandatory from day one and the UK government should have assisted setting up a support network to assist rather than a half hearted "I'm exempt" system.

    The virus affects us all and we all need to do our bit!

    1. Indeed, if there was some support set up, which should not be hard as very few cannot wear any sort of face covering, that would be way better. It is not ideal but it is temporary (more so if we had clearer rules in the first place).

  5. According to this https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own face shields don't count as a mask

    1. Odd, as the legislation says “face covering” means a covering of any type which covers a person's nose and mouth; which clearly includes them.

      Of course saying this means people will be berated for wearing a visor or face shield now, and so those that cannot wear a mask will go maskless (with an exception badge) which is worse.

  6. TBH the whole thing is a farce.
    We locked down in March too slowly
    We should have closed borders to all except essential freight.
    All other travellers mandatory quarantine (at your expense) in a dedicated center, not go home and self isolate since we know certain people won't
    Certain politicians should have been sacked and fined (Cummings for one)
    There is no need for uni students to be back and forth between home & uni spreading it around and its unfair to charge them rent when they are legally forbidden to occupy their digs.
    The rules need to be clearer and there is no need for costa, MCD, etc to be open in this lockdown.
    Look at Oz and NZ for examples on how to do it.

  7. If someone is not wearing a mask and it's causing you or others distress, you want them to take your distress into consideration. But if your blog is causing others distress, you want them "stop reading now and don't come back". By your own reasoning, which you make clear is based on morals and ethics, why does your desire to produce blog content trump any distress of those who encounter it? Can't you take their distress into consideration and stop posting?

    You say that you know someone who is distressed wearing a mask but "thankfully" is okay wearing a visor, and that you know they are "not as good". Not only are they not as good, they are useless, for example see


    So while you may be thankful she wears a visor, to borrow your own style THE VIRUS DOES NOT CARE THAT YOU ARE THANKFUL.

    The moral is this. We are all doing a reasonable job of dealing with this. Look after yourself and those close to you, try some introspection and leave your prejudices and assumptions at home when you go shopping.

    1. It is obvious that a visor stops spray from your mouth going straight it to someone else’s face - a physical barrier in front of the face and mouth. Try blowing out a candle whilst wearing one? But I’ll look at the link anyway.

    2. And my blog does not kill people, so not quite the same comparison.

    3. Oh, and further irony, the reason my blog says that is because there are actually laws about causing other people distress in some cases. Apparently not for those wearing a sunflower lanyard a though.

  8. Back when restaurants/hairdressers/trains/etc were open, was there any rules for employers on how to deal with non-masked customers?
    Can they (or their staff?) refuse to serve despite the magical forcefield lanyard, or do we get into the whole gay bakery cake thing? Should the business double the distance from a masked customer to an unmasked customer? Provide a faceshield instead and ask that the lanyard wearing customer uses it? Insist that masks are at least worn when transiting walkways?
    As an obedient mask wearer, I'd be somewhat unimpressed if seated next to a non-compliant customer and ask to move TBH.


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