Are the U.K. Government Doing Enough to Enforce Mask-Wearing and Social Distancing?

Whilst the U.K. government have sought to return to a new and safe ‘COVID normality’, the extent to which they have regulated and enforced mask-wearing and social distancing is controversial. Guidance issued reduced social distancing from two metres to ‘one metre plus’. This has meant that social distancing should be carried out from two metres where possible, but where this is impractical a one metre distance is allowed, with an emphasis on carrying out other protective measures such as mask wearing. In addition, mask-wearing was made compulsory as of 24th July in public transport, shops and supermarkets. Although, this is not required in other close contact places such as pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

Despite a decrease in the U.K. coronavirus infection rate, there is no doubt that the risk of catching the virus continues to be prevalent, indicated by a possible ‘second wave’ hitting our European counterparts, such as Spain and France. This begs the question as to why the U.K. have not adopted a stricter approach to mask-wearing and social distancing. The guidance issued appears to undermine each other, with people in groups being allowed to meet at pubs and restaurants (with images revealing that many are not sticking to social distancing rules), yet masks have to be worn in other public places (of which there are some who are also not adhering to this); the difference in this rule does not appear to have been sufficiently explained. Additionally, it is confusing as to why children are not required to wear masks despite having been in contact with parents who could be carriers? It is understandable why in young children this may be a difficulty to enforce, but for those who are eleven years old (of which they are currently exempt from this rule), there does not seem to be a sufficient reason for excluding them from this rule.

it is unfortunate that not everyone is taking the current rules seriously enough and it does not appear that the government have gone far enough to address these concerns. For example, on a recent trip to a popular chain restaurant with my partner, we were pleasantly surprised that tables were kept apart and staff were adhering to track-and-trace rules. However, upon paying for the bill, the waitress proceeded to lean over my partner and pick-up his phone and wallet to move it and collect his bank-card! Whilst we were distressed and shocked (especially as we had seen her touching crockery and utensils touched by other customers before coming to our table), she appeared to not be phased, only affirming my views that rules are not being enforced or taken seriously enough.

We are still in the middle of a global pandemic and it is simply confounding that the government are either unknowingly or outright ignoring those that are flouting the rules. Despite the guidance that has been issued and the Prime Minister’s unending warning that stricter measures will be taken if needed, it appears that there are some who simply do not care enough or appreciate the fact that we are still in a global crisis. With a lack of adherence to social distancing and contradictory mask-wearing rules, it is difficult to see how people can feel safe to leave their home and return to a new normality. Whilst I can appreciate that there are difficulties in regulating and enforcing the rules without the U.K. turning into a police state, if there is evidence of blatant disregard for others then something needs to be done.

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