From tomorrow, you’ll have to wear a mask in shops as well as on public transport. There is a case to be made for masks at this point in time, both in terms of slowing the spread of the virus and giving people the confidence to go out. But one of the things that does, understandably, worry people is that this temporary measure could become permanent – just think of income tax. It is one thing to be required to wear a mask now, but quite another for it to become a part of our everyday wear for decades to come.
All of which makes a parliamentary answer from the Department of Health and Social Care to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, rather alarming. Brady asked what the criteria for ending the policy of compulsory masking in shops would be – in other words, how low the incidence of the virus would have to be – and how often this assessment would be made. The reply: ‘The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.’ This indicates that the Department doesn’t know what it would take for the mask requirement to be lifted.
It is unwise to introduce a temporary measure without knowing what would lead you to lift it. As several Boris Johnson allies admit, one of their biggest problems is that they went into lockdown without knowing how to get out of it. They appear to have done the same with mask wearing.