Freedom Day survey: Over half of readers will still wear masks after July

People wear a mask as they leave a shop amid the gradual lifting of restrictions to ease out of lock

Face coverings in shops and other circumstances will no longer be a mandatory requirement in England from July 19, if the planned easing goes ahead. - Credit: PA

More than half of EDP readers say they will still wear masks in public places even after restrictions become a matter of "personal choice" rather than the law.

Nearly 2,000 readers gave their responses to our Freedom Day survey launched on Friday. 

The results revealed that 52pc of 1,817 responders would continue to wear masks in public, 53pc would avoid shaking hands with people, 67pc would keep their distance from others and 69pc would still carry hand sanitiser.

On Monday, Boris Johnson announced that come July 19, society would have to learn to "live with the virus".

In a press conference broadcast to the nation, he said face coverings would no longer be a requirement in indoor public spaces.

He also said the 2m social distancing rule would be scrapped, bars and restaurants will be able to resume table service and people will no longer be expected to "work from home".

According to David Holland, lecturer in psychology at the University of East Anglia, the lifting of restrictions, and especially the "personal choice" element around mask wearing, has the potential to create huge divisions between people.

He said: "The mask situation is an odd one, because you wear it to protect others. From that, the "personal choice" element doesn't logically flow.

"The science on masks is that our fate is intertwined, so if wearing them boils down to individual discretion it has the potential to create tension and make some people feel very uncomfortable.

David Holland, psychology lecturer at the University of East Anglia

David Holland, psychology lecturer at the University of East Anglia - Credit: UEA

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"The people who see not having to wear face masks anymore as a sign of freedom will be incredulous if others continue to wear one, or may become defensive if challenged for not wearing one.

"Those who want to keep wearing them, on the other hand, may feel uncomfortable around those who don't, or isolated if they're the only one.

"It has the potential to cause a lot of social anxiety and I think people need clearer guidance from the government."

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Ultimately, however, he said people could not accurately predict what they would do until confronted with the situation — and that even die-hard anti-maskers, who the law has so far brought into line, might find themselves comfortingly reaching for theirs when faced with a trip to the supermarket.

"People are very bad at predicting their emotions", he said. "In the end, I don't think most of us know what we'll do until the situation is in front of us."