'Caution prevails': Shoppers stick with masks even when they don't have to
- Credit: Victoria Pertusa
Caution has prevailed this "Freedom Day" as independent Norwich shopkeepers say nearly all of their customers continued to wear masks — even if businesses hadn't made them mandatory.
Many shops near Norwich Lanes, such as Garner Hairdressers on St Giles Street, have kept the same strict policy despite a change in the government's own. Masks in their salon are obligatory, not personal choice.
"Everyone has been really respectful so far today", said Grace Cook, the 39-year-old manager.
"Garners is a small business, and the last thing we want is to be pinged, or to be asked to self-isolate. We've had to take a strong stance on this.
"The government made things difficult for us, because legally, masks aren't mandatory anymore. Some people will probably see us asking them to wear one as an infringement on their rights.
"If someone really didn't want to wear one, we wouldn't force them. But we will certainly be asking and encouraging them to, because it's going to keep us all safer."
For Alfie Adams, manager at plant store Elm, and Irene Astley, owner of Imelda's Shoe Boutique, "around 90pc" of the shoppers visiting their stores today had been mask-compliant.
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Ms Astley, 51, said: "I predicted a 10:90 ratio and got it spot on. Practically everyone is wearing masks, except for a select few.
"A group of ladies did come in without them and that felt really strange. They turned a few heads for sure.
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"We're not forcing people to wear them, but we hope by keeping ours on we'll lead by example."
32-year-old Alfie Adams said he thought independents like Elm were probably getting a "better deal" than supermarkets.
"Most of our customers respect the fact we're just a small business and need to keep staff safe", he said.
"I would say 10-15pc of people have come in without masks so far today. I will be encouraging anyone without one to wear one or use one of our free ones provided, but we can't force people if they're adamant not to."
Staff at clothing store Elements and accessory store Lisa Angel said all of their customers, without exception, had been wearing masks — with customers remaining "extremely considerate" despite the July 19 relaxations.
Connie Reed, 19, said at Lisa Angel "absolutely nothing had changed".
"Everyone is following the same rules, wearing masks, social distancing and respecting our eight-person limit", she said.
"Until everyone is vaccinated and case numbers go down we'll continue to ask people to wear masks. So far, our customers have been amazing."
Jonny George, manager at buyer at Elements, said "caution had clearly prevailed".
The 45-year-old said: "We've left it up to personal choice here, but everyone is still wearing their masks.
"Even if some of them would rather not, they're being really considerate to staff and other customers."
Shoppers themselves were also predominantly in the mask camp.
Debbie Goodwin, 60, said the people choosing not to wear them were "crazy".
"Yes, by all means open everything up and get the shops open — but people have to try and keep themselves safe", she said.
"It's madness not to wear one when cases are rising so quickly."
William Tucker, a 20-year-old UEA student, agreed.
"It's really not hard at all to wear one", he said.
"People seem to think the vaccines give you immunity but that's untrue, they just make your symptoms less severe if you do catch it. Wearing masks makes others safer, and I don't see any issue someone could have with not wearing it."
Father and son Richard and Brandon Archer said they would keep wearing their masks too — and would only feel comfortable going without if coronavirus case numbers dropped dramatically.
Brandon Archer, 21, said: "If cases dropped low enough I probably would feel comfortable going without, but we're not there yet.
"I'll still be wearing mine whenever I'm close to other people and I can't keep my distance."
His dad said: "Personally, I'm going to wear one even if the shop itself isn't enforcing the rule. I just think that makes sense."