OPINION: Freedom Day four weeks on: How safe do you really feel?

99% of fans didn't appear to wear face masks during Norwich City's friendly with Gillingham

99% of fans didn't appear to wear face masks during Norwich City's friendly with Gillingham - Credit: Nick Richards

We've had almost four weeks since 'Freedom Day' when most Covid restrictions were relaxed.

Some people still seem to be cautiously venturing out, while others seem to have ditched the face masks and partied like it's well, 2019.

After more than a year of working from home, wearing face masks almost everywhere in public and keeping my distance, I was definitely on the more cautious side myself, especially when such a big thing was made of a day when we could suddenly go out and behave normally again.

In the four weeks since, I've been to places and events that I've not been to in months, mostly in Norwich.

At some I've felt safe, at others I've felt a little uncomfortable. I've given each of the six events a rating up to five on how safe I felt with five being the most safe.

Here's what I think:

1) Football

Carrow Road welcomes fans back tomorrow in vast numbers for the first time since February 2020 when Norwich City face Liverpool in the Premier League.

I went to last week's friendly against Gillingham, where I was one of 10,600 fans eager to see how football would work under the new feeling of freedom.

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I wore a mask at the turnstile and in the concourse as advised, but, like most fans ditched it once in my seat - and I noticed at half time there were much less masked faces.

Only a handful of fans wore them in their seats and it did feel a tad strange sitting still next to complete strangers for so long, especially when at a football match you often feel your personal space is invaded.

I can't say I felt utterly comfortable being so close to people if I am honest.

Safety rating: 2/5

2) parkrun

The Saturday morning 5k came back with a bang at the end of July and in three weeks since, I've been to three different parks to take part.

Clearly a few hundred runners setting off around a park at the same time is going to throw social distancing out the window. I kind of knew this before I went and as hard as you try, you just can't keep your distance from everybody. 

At all three parks - Nowton Park in Bury St Edmunds and at Catton Park and Sloughbottom Park in Norwich -  the events have been brilliantly organised with always-sensible runners behaving impeccably.

Most people who take part just seem relieved to be back and don't want to do anything to jeopardise that. No worries at all, but if you want your space, you may need to think again.

Safety rating: 4/5

Parkrun events returned to Eaton Park with runners ready to go at 9am.

Runners taking part in the first Norwich parkrun at the end of July. Runners do generally seem to be aware to keep their distance from each other, says Nick Richards - Credit: Neil Didsbury

3) Pub

I've not been inside a pub this year but did go to a pub quiz in a Norwich pub this week with three friends and any thoughts of it being crowded and too busy were allayed by having to pre-book a table.

I wore a mask upon entry but once away from the bar felt safe in my seat and had plenty of space to move around in. The toilet urinals were all out of use to maximise distancing which made sense and any time I was up on my feet and walking past somebody, people do generally want to give you space or wait for you to move.

The days of people bumping against you at the bar and accidentally spilling your pint, may be over!

Safety rating: 4/5

4) Restaurant

It may have only been a visit to Mr Mangal on Dereham Road for a delicious lamb kofte, but it's nice to say I have experienced a sit-down meal in a restaurant since Freedom Day and it was generally fine.

The staff all wore face masks, as did I until I was seated and despite a constant stream of takeaway drivers walking in and out and a restaurant that seemed at capacity, I didn't feel uncomfortable eating out.

There was plenty of hand sanitiser on the tables and staff do seem to be aware that they won't come and stand as close to you when ordering and serving food as they perhaps used to.

Safety rating: 4/5

5) Care home

My grandmother passed away in a Norwich care home in January 2020, just before the first Covid cases in the UK. I'd visited her two days before she died and could see how hard it was for staff and residents to keep their distance.

So much attention was placed on Covid care home deaths this time last year so it was interesting to see what it was like since Freedom Day.

My grandad, 95, has gone into a care home in the city in the last few months and visiting him this week, it's very cautious. Visitors need to book a slot and wear a face mask at at all times, have their temperature taken and there is hand sanitiser everywhere.

They really can't do any more to protect their residents.

Safety rating: 5/5

6) Car boot sale

I've been to them most weeks since spring when they came back and the biggest ones, such as Arminghall, social distancing has never seemed to exist!

Even when the country was masked up to the max it was alarming how close people got to you and how few people wore a face mask.

Car boots were the closest I came to other humans for weeks and if you want to keep a safe distance from people it's probably best to avoid them, or keep wearing a mask.

I did see one enterprising chap selling home-made face masks, I just couldn't see many people buying them!

Safety rating: 3/5