In what was a much-predicted announcement, the Government has said that face masks and coverings will be mandatory in shops from Friday 24th July. After a weekend of yes, no, maybe, from Ministers, on Monday evening it was confirmed that people would have to cover up if they are going into a retail space.

The ramifications of that are going to be large. And there are now reports in the papers online that there are plans under consideration for masks to be used in offices by staff at all times.

Cultural change

As a society, the UK is not used to wearing masks and face coverings. In Asia, where high pollution levels forced populations to adopt masks, it is part of normal life. This time masks are being introduced as part of a wider effort to keep the virus at bay and to help reduce the chances of localised spread. There will always be the argument that masks should have been brought in sooner, and I would agree with there. There is a large dose of acting after the horse has bolted here. But the counter-argument I guess would be that the Government didn’t want to enforce so much change so quickly on a British public that is sceptical of change and that has already sacrificed already. They want us to adopt this new way of life, not reject it.

The adoption of masks in retail and indoor spaces, and perhaps soon offices as well, is going to mark a huge cultural shift. Data shows that so far the UK lags seriously behind other countries when it comes to using masks. With the Government now enforcing it, that is expected to go up and the sight of people wearing masks is going to become commonplace.

Personally, I am OK with masks. It did feel odd at first, but you soon get used to it in front of customers. I am now at the point where I would feel like I am missing something if I forgot to put my mask on when dealing with a client face to face. I feel safer wearing one, and its a signal to others that I care and I am doing what I can to help prevent any further spread.

What I am seeing is a dangerous amount of chatter both in the UK and in the US about masks being part of some wider major conspiracy by Governments around the world to control people. I’d give this a nonsense mark about the same level as 5G masts causing COVID-19. If you wear a mask, you can still do anything you want. Within reason of course. The mask is simply a holding measure to try and prevent spread where possible until a successful vaccine arrives. When that happens, all of this goes away. No more masks. No social distancing. The Government isn’t trying to control you. If they wanted to do that, there are far more successful ways in which they could.

Also, consider that NHS and health care workers have to wear masks permanently for far longer shifts than we work, in higher temperatures, in far more PPE than we wear, in much higher pressure situations. If they can do it, we can do it.

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Masks in showrooms

If you haven’t already, it looks like you’ll be insisting on your clients wearing a mask if they come into your showroom. Some installers I believe have been doing this already. We are enforcing it as of Monday of this week. Although I’d say around half of our clients wear one without asking anyway. We are adjusting our information to our clients accordingly online and around our premises.

People can face fines of £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days if they do not wear a mask indoors. As I understand it, companies can enforce this new rule, and can refuse to serve clients if they refuse to put one on.

We’re already working in new ways compared to the pre-pandemic world, but this is a new addition that is going to change things again. I’m not convinced they will bring in mandatory masks for office workers in the end. I think there could be some resistance to that. But for public-facing installers with showrooms, this is going to be another major update to how they run their business if they haven’t adopted masks already.

For me, this should have been brought in a long time ago. There is evidence that face coverings do help reduce the risk of spread, although not perfect. And there are plenty of masks in production and circulation now.

It will be interesting to see if installers will enforce these rules or not in the face of clients who are anti-mask. Will they risk a fine? Will they refuse business? This is going to mark a cultural shift for the UK and I’ll be curious to see the longer-term impacts it has.

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