OPINION: 'I'm scared to take off my face mask in public'

Family wearing face mask in shopping mall in Asia. Mother and children wear facemask during coronavi

'The little gesture of wearing a mask in shops and other spaces is the least I can do to protect others who are vulnerable...and their kids,' says Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Freedom Day is coming. At last. 

Normality (or should we say a ‘new normal’) is so close it’s almost tangible. No more flipping a coin to decide which of your mates can/can’t legally come sit in your house or garden. 

Free hugs for everyone. Big weddings. Proper funerals where those we’ve sadly lost can be remembered, honoured and respected in a way we’ve not been able to for 16 months. 

Concerts. Theatre. Festivals. Holidays. Do you remember those?  

Culturally it’s going to be a shock to the system. Our options exponentially widened. But it’s also going to be glorious. I can’t wait.  

However....I refuse to give up my mask just yet.  

As soon as jabs were available for over-35s I was straight in there back in May. The earliest available date for my second vaccination though was August 12- almost 12 weeks later. Neck deep into the summer holidays. 

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Thankfully I’ve managed, with a lot of persistence, to move it to next week, but there are others I know who continue to face a long wait for jab number two. 

Many of them, like me, have children (mine are teens) who, despite taking bi-weekly lateral flow tests, still pose a risk as carriers for the virus. Which, I think, is a problem. Not only for us grown-ups, but for our kids. After all, they’re more likely to suffer what’s been coined long Covid. 

It’s fantastic news that the majority of older people and those most at-risk have been double jabbed, but I do fear, with all restrictions out the door, and with foreign travel back on the table, anyone who’s received just one vaccination, and especially younger people, are being put in a lottery. 

I’m not trying to be a bringer of doom, but as someone who lives with ME, I am a little scared. Realistically it will be a month or so before I have something close to resembling full immunity. And a lot can happen in four weeks. 

I can’t help wondering what would happen if I catch Covid-19 in that time. How would my supressed, fussy immune system cope? 

While I’ve largely avoided (touch wood) major flare ups in the last 10 years since I was diagnosed, I still remember the devastation ME/Chronic Fatigue inflicted on my life. 

Climbing the career ladder at a pace, with two children under four, a bout of glandular fever knocked me for six.

Naturally being a multi-tasker and someone who keeps calm and carries on, three weeks later I was back in the office, working long hours, running photo shoots.

And then I was floored. For months I found it hard to dress myself. I had to crawl to the toilet. Over the winter, I had to stare out at my husband and children playing in the snow while I couldn’t move from the sofa.

The exhaustion was incessant and depressing. In fact, I remember at my lowest begging the doctor to take my toddlers away as I felt I couldn’t look after them anymore. Which was madness – especially considering the fact my husband was in the house and my parents were offering support. 

It’s a time in my life I can’t forget and in many ways it defines me.

It took a lot of strength to pull myself mentally out of that dark place. And physically it took a year or two to get back to me. But I did it. I got out the other side.

And I joined a running club - because I could. I joined the gym – because I could. I said ‘yes’ to everything.

Could catching Covid now, when I’m so close to being fully vaccinated, drag me back under into that place? 

I know the science goes back and forth on the efficacy of wearing masks, but mine certainly makes me feel safer in public and, to be honest, the little gesture of wearing one in shops and other spaces is the least I can do to protect others who are vulnerable...and their kids. 

There are those for whom wearing a mask is no longer tenable, including people with autism, but I can’t help feeling like it’s too soon for everyone else to rip theirs off.  

While they’re no longer a legal requirement, the Government (in its ever crystal clear way) has advised we continue to wear them and to act with caution.

I just hope, in amongst all the celebration and joy that Freedom Day brings, the wider public do think of others and act responsibly.

If you don’t mind wearing a mask, wear it. Continue to use hand sanitiser. Be considerate. It will certainly be appreciated by those of us who aren’t quite out of the woods yet.