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Leona O'Neill: Against masks? Then why do you think doctors and nurses wear them?

There is resistance and even anger towards wearing face masks during the ongoing pandemic. But doing so isn't about taking away anybody's rights – it's simply about protecting ourselves and others from a rampant and deadly virus, writes Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill – 'It’s not about scaring people, it’s about being cautious. I think more people should try it'. Picture by Getty Images

I WATCHED the news from London over the weekend with utter despair. On Sunday hundreds of anti-mask activists descended on London's Hyde Park in protest against rules over compulsory face coverings.

Some of those gathered wore plague doctor costumes, others sported masks with the mouth covering cut out, others brandished signs about 5G and shouted about resisting being "masked, tested, tracked".

From July 24 everyone in England will have to wear masks while in shops, something those who organised the protest branded a "liberty-sapping regulation". In Northern Ireland they are at the moment compulsory only on public transport.

Last week there was some concerning news about coronavirus outbreaks in the north-west area, in the Derry, Dungiven and Limavady. This is only to be expected as we emerge from lockdown. We must remain vigilant and keep this virus under control by taking all measures necessary.

I locked down my family before I got the go-ahead from the government. I took my children from school as Boris Johnson was still telling us it was safe for them to be there. I also didn't wait for the government to tell me what to do with regard to face coverings. I wear a mask when I'm in shops or other indoor spaces because I want to protect myself and others from this virus.

It's not really rocket science. If I have the coronavirus and I cough or talk loudly or sneeze when I'm around others they have more chance of catching it from me if I am not wearing a mask. So I wear one. It might not protect me from unmasked coronavirus-infected individuals but ultimately I wear it to protect others. I wish others would do the same. It's all about respect.

Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful tools we have to fight off this deadly virus. There is growing scientific evidence that facial coverings significantly help prevent transmission, even if we are standing near to someone who is infected. Why do you think doctors and nurses in our hospitals wear them?

I was in a shop last week and both me and my daughter were wearing masks as we always do and as we will continue to do. A woman who was queuing behind me at the tills shook her head, tutted and said "take those off, you're scaring people" to me. And this was before news of a local outbreak had come out. It's not about scaring people, it's about being cautious. I think more people should try it.

If everyone wore masks when in shops, if it was normal behaviour, it could go some way – obviously alongside other measures – to really dampen down the virus and get us back to normality sooner.

I cannot understand the thinking behind refusing to wear masks both here and in America. Hundreds of people gathering together to shout about their human rights being torn from them by "mask nazis" and how the government is trying to control us through masks just screams insanity to me.

There's no doubt about it, they can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. It might feel a tad alien wearing them for a time, but the more people who wear them the more normal it will become. They do ultimately make our current situation safer.

Of course there are certain people for whom mask wearing is impossible – very young children, those with breathing difficulties and other conditions – but the rest of us should at least try to keep doing our best until therapeutics that work or a vaccine is found.

People are fed up after spending months in lockdown, there is no doubt about that. People have lost their jobs, livelihoods, businesses, everything. People just want this crisis to be over. But if we look at Leicester, a city that has had its lockdown measures reinstated because of an outbreak there, we can see how easy it is to go back to those dark days if we just carry on as normal.

Things are not normal yet. Things wont be normal for another while yet. We have to look after one another and respect each other and wearing a mask is a sign of respect for your fellow man. I'm going to keep wearing mine.

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