Is Norwich finally being unmasked?

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The tide appears to be turning with city shoppers choosing to ditch their masks instead of wearing them. 

After the rules changed on July 19 people out and about in Norwich appeared to be taking a cautious approach to unmasking with many people continuing to cover their faces.

But two months on it appears the balance is gradually tipping the other way.

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A straw poll of 100 shoppers coming out of a bustling Primark on Gentleman's Walk saw a 60:40 split in favour of abandoning masks.

However some of the city's smaller, independent shops are finding people are more inclined to mask up when visiting them.

Caroline Block, who runs Oh So Sweet on White Lion Street, Norwich, says around 80pc customers have

Caroline Block, who runs Oh So Sweet on White Lion Street, Norwich, says around 80pc customers have beenw earing face coverings. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant


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Caroline Block, owner of Oh So Sweet confectionary shop in White Lion Street, still displays signs asking customers to cover their faces.

She is finding the vast majority of people are happy to comply with this request.

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She said: "Out and about around the city I'm definitely seeing a lot fewer people wearing masks. I think because of our signs and because we wear them ourselves, people are wearing them in here at least.

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks.
Byline: Sonya Duncan

People out and about shopping in Norwich with and without masks. Byline: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"I think if people see staff members wearing them they are more inclined to do so themselves, but if they see workers not wearing them they think 'Why should I?'

"We've continued to ask people to wear them because it does make things feel safer as Covid is still very much out there."

A sign outside Oh So Sweet asking customers to continue wearing masks

A sign outside Oh So Sweet asking customers to continue wearing masks - Credit: Archant

Jo Dickinson, 52, of Wroxham and Grace Dickinson, 26, from Norwich, both made a shopping trip to Primark - one masked and one unmasked.

Mrs Dickinson, who was not wearing a mask, said: "I would rather not wear one because they make me claustrophobic and steam up my glasses. I did what I was told when you had to be now it's a personal choice I prefer not to."

But Miss Dickinson said: "I have to wear one for work, as I work in a pharmacy, so I've got used to it. It does make me feel safer."

What's the psychology behind ditching masks?

Julie de Ruiter, a therapist based in Norwich 

Julie de Ruiter, a therapist based in Norwich - Credit: irphotographyuk.com

Norwich-based psychotherapist Julie De Ruiter said there are a range of reasons people may be deciding to leave their masks at home.

She said: "People do tend to follow rules but now there's ambiguity about it and people are allowed to make their own choices.

"I think people are maybe feeling like they are learning to live alongside the virus more and perhaps feel a bit more confident having been double jabbed.

"Likewise, we do tend to put a lot of stock in social trends so if they see others not wearing them they will be more likely to not wear them themselves.

"Sometimes people may also just be a bit forgetful or get used to not have them with them.

"I know I find in my work it is much more helpful to be able to read facial expressions and I think maybe we've been a bit starved of that the past year or so, so perhaps people also just want to see faces again."

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