MIL-OSI Global: COVID masks: how and when to ask someone to wear one – without getting into a fight


Source: The Conversation – UK – By Fiona Woollard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southampton


Most people in the UK plan to keep wearing masks on public transport or in crowded indoor areas to avoid spreading COVID-19. However, when mask mandates lift – as they have done largely across England – some people say they will no longer wear one if they don’t have to.

Everyone in a crowded indoor area should wear a mask if they can. It’s something we do for others: it reduces the chance of causing serious harm by giving somebody the coronavirus, which you might be inadvertently carrying despite not having symptoms. Put simply, you need to wear your mask to protect me, and I need to wear my mask to protect you.

But mask wearing is also something that many people feel very strongly about. Confronting someone about it could make them upset or lead to an altercation. We also need to take care that we aren’t demanding that people share personal information with us to explain why they aren’t wearing a mask.

With that in mind, here’s how to go about talking to people about mask wearing in the right way. Discussions are likely to go best if we can frame mask wearing as something that’s done for the benefit of others, while avoiding blame or shame.

When to ask someone to wear a mask

Reasonable expectations about mask wearing need to be carefully balanced with respecting others’ privacy. You do not want to mount a one-person crusade to call out every person who does not wear one. It is often better if we can rely on reminders to suggest mask wearing – such as notices – that do not interrogate or single anyone out.

There are some people who cannot wear a mask for health or other personal reasons. When masks were legally required across the UK, the government recognised several exemptions – circumstances when wearing a mask is required.

Even if they’re not mandatory, if you’re spending time in close proximity to someone, it’s reasonable to ask them to wear a mask.

For instance, people may have physical or mental illnesses, impairments or disabilities that mean they aren’t able to put on, keep on or take off a mask. In some cases, wearing a mask would cause great distress.

You cannot tell whether someone has an illness or disability just by looking at them. And you cannot see whether wearing a face covering will trigger someone’s memories of violence or abuse. We’re not entitled to demand that people

ref. COVID masks: how and when to ask someone to wear one – without getting into a fight –

MIL OSI – Global Reports