To mask or not to mask? Opinion split on London underground

Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

The “do as I say, not as I do” approach to political messaging was again displayed last week when Boris Johnson urged people to wear masks in enclosed spaces, shortly after leading a cabinet meeting of 27 maskless ministers and eight similarly uncovered observers.

Studies suggest masks cut Covid-19 transmission by up to 80%.Although there is disagreement about how much protection different types of mask offer the wearer, the science indicates that pretty much any covering protects the community from the wearer. It is this uneven interdependence that means masks are extremely effective at revealing hypocrisy.

Few places demonstrate the contested role of the mask more clearly than the London underground system. “Face coverings must be worn for the full duration of journeys on the TfL network, including inside our stations and bus stations,” states the Transport for London website, which also lists no less than 11 categories of exemption. This message is continually repeated over loudspeakers, and on advertising hoardings within underground stations.

Yet as many as half the travellers on the system are now ignoring this stipulation. On Friday, I travelled from Queen’s Park to Oxford Circus on the Bakerloo line. When I got off, there were 40 people in the carriage – only 16 of whom were wearing masks.

Commuter Sun Oh said she was ‘terrified’ of people who were not wearing masks coughing or sneezing on her. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

James Lennie, who was maskless in Oxford Circus station, said that as the majority of people had now been double vaccinated, the risk was carried by those who had elected not to get jabbed. “So why should I put myself out if they’re not wanting to help themselves?” he said.

While the vaccination offers up to 90% protection from infection, it is not foolproof. People can, and do, become infected – some requiring hospitalisation – after being fully vaccinated. Lennie was aware of this, pointing out that he usually wore a mask, but he was not convinced that masks work.

“I can’t remember the name of the guy who comes on morning TV or whatever,” he said, “but he says, basically, in terms of coronavirus germs, you can fit a bus through the masks.”

Further along the busy platform, Sun Oh was sitting without a mask on, but said that she would before boarding the train. “When I pass someone who’s not wearing a mask, I’m almost terrified they’re going to cough or sneeze on me and I almost hold my breath,” she said.

She felt that masks mess up her lipstick but that, as a friend of hers put it: “Anyone who doesn’t wear a mask is a massive cock.” After we had finished speaking, she fished a mask out of her bag.

Several people said that they had just forgotten to wear a mask that day, but others, such as Diana, a housewife from Wembley, north-west London, were adamant that as she had been double vaccinated it was no longer an issue, even as a TfL announcement reminded passengers of their obligation to cover up their mouths and noses.

“I had a friend who caught corona when he was wearing a mask,” said Diana, by way of explanation. “And he died in hospital. I stopped wearing a mask when I had the vaccine.”

Tube travellers Alicia and Josh said they thought wearing a face covering was a matter of individual choice. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Masked passengers seemed to be divided in their response to their uncovered fellow travellers. Some, such as Alicia and Josh, who were unmasked on the platform but about to put theirs on, said that they thought it was a matter of individual choice. Others, including Jack Phillips, travelling with a baby in a pram, thought the tube was the one place that everyone should abide by the rules. “Actually, I think I’ll always wear one from now on, because of colds and flu,” he added.

Despite TfL’s continual reminders to mask-up, many passengers believe that it is not mandatory, and that all such restrictions came to an end in England on “freedom day” on 19 July. No one I spoke to claimed any kind of exemption.

Travelling north on the Bakerloo line to Paddington was a group of door-to-door salespeople, all of whom were uncovered. They traded stories of how irate other passengers got, noting both the silent and angry protests to which they had been subjected. One recalled that a passenger got up and found another seat because he was not wearing a mask. “I didn’t mind,” he said. “It just gave me more space.” “Someone complained to me from the other side of the carriage,” said his friend Charlie, a young man in his 20s. “I said, ‘I don’t have Covid and it’s not your business.’ He started screaming at me. He was very rude.”

Another of the group, a woman called Julia, said she thought that people on public transport should wear one. “You are on public transport!” shouted her colleague, and everyone laughed.

When they disembarked, a man in his 40s wearing a mask followed after them, turning to me at the door. “I don’t agree with anything they said,” he announced, his voice quivering with passion. “I always wear a mask. I’ve had Covid and it’s really affected me.” He looked haunted by the experience.

If half of the London underground’s passengers are not wearing masks, it is clear that the system is not in a strong position to inhibit infection, particularly when the cold and flu season starts in earnest.

The lack of public agreement on the matter is symptomatic of the mixed messages that have characterised this government’s response to the pandemic. So it is perhaps no coincidence that tube passengers are increasingly following the example set by cabinet ministers.

Whatever Johnson says in contrast to his actions is likely to be greeted in the same manner as TfL’s announcements: as a background noise that can be complacently ignored.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


How to get free Bose 700 noise-cancelling headphones when you pre-order Google's Pixel 6

Google’s new smartphones are packed with impressive tech (The Independent) Google’s latest pair of smartphones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 pro, have just launched and are now ready to ... Read more »

Nightclub boycotts planned after date rape injections leave women afraid

Police are investigating reports of spiking by injection in UK clubs (Getty Images) Women are “scared” to go out clubbing as police investigate reports of spiking through injection, campaigners have ... Read more »

Alicia Silverstone: Clueless star says she was kicked off the same dating app twice

Clueless star Alicia Silverstone has claimed she was banned from the same dating app twice. The actor said that she “tried to get on one of the dating apps” a ... Read more »

Jim Davidson storms out of racism debate with Ashley Banjo over BLM

Watch: Jim Davidson storms out of racism discussion with Ashley Banjo Jim Davidson walked out of a discussion about racism with Ashley Banjo telling him to “stick to dancing”. The ... Read more »

The textile designer who fuses technology with inspiration

(Samsung) Working as a design director for multinational brands, Kim Chin travelled worldwide and handled huge projects. But it took returning to her childhood bedroom in south east London – ... Read more »

Mile End stabbing: Three stabbed on London bus leaving man in critical condition

Mile End stabbing: Three stabbed on London bus leaving man in critical condition Armed police were scrambled to a triple stabbing on a London night bus outside Mile End Station ... Read more »

[Newsmaker] Edison Motors likely preferred bidder for troubled SsangYong Motor

This file photo shows the main gate of SsangYong Motor’s Pyeongtaek plant, 70 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)Edison Motors, a little-known electric bus manufacturer, seems likely to emerge as the ... Read more »

After Squid Game, Netflix is changing how it measures a show's popularity

Just a week after Squid Game became the most popular Netflix show of all time, the streamer is preparing to change the way it measures viewership of its movies and ... Read more »

Xiaomi's new cheap phone launches soon with an iPhone-like design feature

Just days after a big Redmi Note 11 leak laid bare the upcoming cheap phone, as well as its Pro sibling, Xiaomi has confirmed that the duo of affordable mobiles ... Read more »

Valve quietly updates Half-Life 2 to run better with Steam Deck

Half-Life 2 is a very old game, of course, but Valve has stealthily initiated a big update – now in beta – for the shooter which applies some considerable changes, ... Read more »

One of 2021's best PC indie games is out now on mobile

If you’re the kind of gamer who loves tinkering away for hours on end in creative games like Minecraft or Cities Skylines, you might want to give Townscaper a look. ... Read more »

GameStop PS5 restock in-store time on Friday, October 22 – list of all 290 stores

Update: The GameStop PS5 restock is in two days and store location list has been updated with all places PS5 will be for sale – with their correct addresses. GameStop’s ... Read more »

Best free Linux firewalls of 2021

The best free Linux firewalls, to make it simple and easy to manage security on your Linux computers and networks. © Provided by TechRadar Representational image of data security And ... Read more »

Redmi Note 11 series launch confirmed for October 28

Xiaomi is gearing up to launch new Redmi Note phones. The Chinese smartphone maker has confirmed that the Redmi Note 11 series is arriving in China on October 28. While ... Read more »

Gross NPAs of banks may decline to 6.9% by March 2022: Report

Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) and net NPAs of banks are likely to decline to 6.9-7 per cent and 2.2-2.3 per cent, respectively, by the end of March 2022 as compared ... Read more »

Grab this Eufy home security for its lowest ever price

The best home security camera ensures you can check in on your home even when you’re not around, offering peace of mind that it’s safe and secure. However, they can ... Read more »

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review

© Provided by TechRadar Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Two-minute review The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 could be about to get even better, as Samsung is announcing something today ... Read more »

Strong passwords alone might not be enough to solve all your security problems

Despite being around for years, passwords are a relatively weak form of security, and many users are realising that they need other forms of protection to stay safe online, new ... Read more »

No, Guardians 3 hasn't starting filming yet

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hasn’t starting shooting just yet, despite one of its stars appearing to confirm that it had. Taking to Twitter on October 20, director James ... Read more »

Local EV consortium recommended as preferred bidder for SsangYong Motor

SEOUL, Oct. 20 (Yonhap) — A South Korean consortium led by local electric carmaker Edison Motors Co. has been recommended as the preferred bidder to acquire SsangYong Motor Co., the ... Read more »

What is the Norton Ultimate Help Desk?

Norton Ultimate Help Desk is a service from the reputable antivirus provider that aims to fix any issues you have with your PC, mobile phone and a range of other ... Read more »

Xbox Mini fridge goes from meme to holiday sales hit

The fridge, which resembles its namesake, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X video-game machine, goes for S$134.32. NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – Xbox’s Series X Mini Fridge, which started as a joke Twitter ... Read more »

Adele Looks Stunning In Vinyl Brown Look For Basketball Date Night With Boyfriend Rich Paul

Photo credit: Kevork Djansezian – Getty Images Adele fans are most accustomed to seeing her on stage, bringing the crowd to tears with powerful renditions of 'Someone Like You', but ... Read more »

Jim Davidson storms out of racism conversation with Ashley Banjo

Diversity star Ashley Banjo invited former comedian Jim Davidson to appear in a documentary that looked at the backlash to his BLM routine on BGT. However Davidson walked out of ... Read more »

State pension to increase by £5.57 a week from April

Broken third lock – TMG The state pension will rise by £5.57 a week next April, increasing in line with inflation, which hit 3.1pc in the year to September. Inflation ... Read more »

Facebook reportedly planning to rebrand the company with name change

It comes as the company deals with the fallout from a series of news reports and whistleblower complaints about how the it handles user safety. Read more »

Xbox series X stock - live: Argos restock could drop soon – what we know

LIVE – Updated at 09:43 © iStock/The Independent xbox IB3 Update: The Xbox series X is now sold out at Very. Read on for more details. The Xbox series X continues to ... Read more »

Google Docs ‘@mention' feature is getting new capabilities

Google has expanded the @ symbol functionality in its Docs app. The company introduced the feature as a part of mentioning people in Google Docs that allowed users to mention ... Read more »

Instagram update: Option to post via desktop browser is set to go live this week

Photo credit: Solen Feyissa / Unsplash Instagram users have been able to view their profiles and pages they follow through the social network’s desktop browser version for some time now. Creating new posts, ... Read more »

Best free Linux firewalls of 2021: go beyond iptables for desktops and servers

In a sense, Linux has a firewall built right into the kernel itself. That said, it isn’t the most convenient to use. Best free Linux firewalls 1. IPFire 2. OPNsense ... Read more »

GoPro Hero 10 Black

© Provided by TechRadar GoPro Hero 10 Black Two-minute review The GoPro Hero 10 Black is the latest action camera from the brand that has become a synonym for the ... Read more »

Amazfit GTR 3 Pro, GTR 3, and GTS 3: price in India, specifications, and features

Amazfit GTS 3, GTR3, and GTR 3 Pro smartwatches are now available in India for purchase. Launched globally a few days ago globally. The new wearables from the brand are ... Read more »

Boris Johnson's Net Zero ‘hot air' blasted as Brits face tax hikes to fill £37bn black hole

Boris Johnson’s green plan has been deemed “unfit for purpose” as families are set to face tax hikes to fill a £37 billion black hole. The Treasury warned that tax ... Read more »

Nuri rocket's launch to go ahead as scheduled Thursday

South Korea’s first self-developed satellite launch vehicle Nuri stands on a launch pad at the Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province. (Yonhap)South Korea’s first domestically developed satellite launch ... Read more »

This new connected reading aid lamp is designed for dyslexic people

© Courtesy of Lexilife Lexilife presents Lexilight 3.0, its latest lamp for dyslexic people. French startup Lexilife, which specializes in designing lamps for dyslexic people, has just unveiled its new ... Read more »

US surgeons perform first successful transplant test involving pig kidney in a human

In this September 2021 photo provided by NYU Langone Health, a surgical team at the hospital in New York examines a pig kidney attached to the body of a deceased ... Read more »

RKI meldet 167.788 neue Impfungen in Deutschland im Vergleich zum Vortag

Düsseldorf. Die Impfungen gegen das Coronavirus laufen. Bislang wurden in Deutschland rund 110 Millionen Dosen verimpft, im Vergleich zur letzten Meldung stieg die Zahl um 167.788 weitere Impfungen. Hier finden ... Read more »

Here's how the new Tesla Cybertruck prototype looks

A new video of a Tesla Cybertruck prototype has surfaced, and it appears to show a new prototype with side mirrors.According to the auto-tech website Electrek, a new Tesla Cybertruck ... Read more »

Micron to build a $7 billion plant in Hiroshima

US memory chip maker Micron Technology Inc will build a new factory at its Japanese production site in Hiroshima at a cost of 800 billion yen ($7.0 billion), the Nikkan ... Read more »