The great mask off: How is north Norfolk reacting to the rule changes?

Will you continue to wear a face mask after the rules change?

Will you continue to wear a face mask after the rules change? - Credit: Denise Bradley

Although face masks will no longer be compulsory after July 19, people will still be encouraged to wear them in certain settings across Norfolk and Waveney.

Businesses, attractions and other venues are taking different approaches, with some saying they will encourage face mask use, and others leaving it entirely up to the individual. 

The new rules - which are subject to confirmation on July 12 - say face mask wearing will become a "personal choice" although they are likely to still be widely worn in hospitals and health care settings.

Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said although Covid case number were continuing to rise, it was clear the link between infections and hospitalisations had been broken. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker has been getting an increased number of dog theft reports. 

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker - Credit: Archant

Mr Baker said the government should issue clear guidance about where masks should still be worn.

He said: "We need to reassure the public in what settings we wear those masks, and remind them it's mainly to protect other people."

Mr Baker said he would prefer it if, at least initially, masks were still required in potentially crowded indoor setting such as public transport and supermarkets. 

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He said: "Out of respect for other people I would continue to wear a mask in those settings."

Kelvin van Hasselt, Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Club's chairman said they would probably still require masks to be worn in the clubhouse and other indoor areas. 

He said: "I have to discuss this very carefully with the committee, but we have to offer a safe setting. 

"By wearing a mask, you're showing consideration for other people, and as part of the tennis players' code of courtesy we should continue to wear masks in indoor settings. 

"A large proportion of our membership is over 60, and although they've had two vaccinations you can still catch Covid, and as Andrew Marr from the BBC found, it can be extremely nasty."

Debbie Thompson, director of Sheringham Little Theatre and St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth, said: "We are delighted that social distancing will be removed from July 19 because for theatres that is absolutely crucial for our survival but we are also a little bit nervous and it feels a bit reckless to stop all the restrictions.

Debbie Thompson, director fo Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: Richard Batson

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson - Credit: Richard Batson

"We won't be saying masks are mandatory for audiences but our staff will be wearing masks.

"The whole point is that we're protecting people by wearing a mask so we will be wearing masks."

A spokesperson from North Norfolk District Council said: "We will reflect new advice in our service provision but will remain very happy for both customers and staff to continue to wear a face-covering if they choose to do so personally, and like all employers we will be undertaking a full risk assessment which will further inform our approach."

Charles Sanders, owner of Sanders Coaches, said: "If the law says you don't have to wear one it's difficult for us to argue against that, but we'll put up notices saying for the comfort and safety of all passengers we request that you wear a mask."

Charles Sanders, managing director of Sanders Coaches. Picture: Mark Bullimore.

Charles Sanders of Sanders Coaches. - Credit: Archant

Mr Sanders said it had been difficult enough over the past few moths enforcing the rule around mask wearing on buses, and said some people became aggressive when challenged if they were exempt from the rule or not.

He said screens, which were installed to protect bus drivers, would remain in place. 

Mr Sanders said: "There's no point in removing them with the virus numbers climbing. Hopefully the vaccinations will do their job and we won't have to have another lockdown."

Eric Snaith, owner of Titchwell Manor hotel and restaurant, as well as Eric’s Fish and Chips in Holt and Thornham and Eric's Pizza in Thornham, said he would leave it up to his staff and customers to decide.

He said: "I think a lot of staff members won't hesitate to stop wearing them, but if any prefer to carry on wearing them then obviously that can continue.

Eric Snaith inside Eric's Fish and Chips in Thornham which has been reviewed by Giles Coren Picture:

Eric Snaith. - Credit: Eric's Fish and Chips

"People have become a lot more mindful of not getting in other's personal space, and more people are keen to sit outside if possible.

"But if we've got customers who are more comfortable with masks on we would wouldn't hesitate to wear them."