“You can’t eat when you’re muzzled!” Apparently DUP MP Sammy Wilson cannot fathom the possibility of eating an ice cream outside. This revelation arrives in the latest instalment of Sammy’s tirade against the public health advice to wear facemasks when indoors. I’ll admit, it’s never easy to follow the East Antrim MP’s train of thought when he decides to go off on one. Although in the pursuit of a mask free post-pandemic society, Sammy has grounded his thinking in a traceable and linear fashion for us. Masks, the MP argues, will put people off shopping and damage the economy. This concern for the economy almost seems rational for a man who once asked if buses in Belfast’s city centre were gay, following Translink’s decision to change their livery from blue to pink. However, I’m yet to see any credible source indicate that the marginal group of individuals opposed to masks will decimate the Northern Irish economy in any way comparable to that of a second wave of Coronavirus. Mr. Wilson’s concern, quite frankly, is misplaced.
The Stormont Executive have been mandated the power to make face masks compulsory, albeit this compulsion has been set back to the 20th of August. But beyond the obvious question of, why delay such a decision when surely every day counts in the fight against a pandemic, one must ask how anyone can oppose such a policy? Masks are uncomfortable, I don’t like wearing them. But I sure as hell prefer them over the discomfort of a ventilator or life inhibiting and sustained lung damage, obtained from refusing to wear a mask for five minutes while ordering my rum and raisin 99 with an extra flake. And I particularly, prefer wearing a mask over the discomfort of potentially asymptomatically transmitting said virus to a vulnerable or shielded individual. As shielding policy comes to an end as of today, the time for acting responsibly and in a shared common good, transcendent of any party politics, is now. Someone needs to get this message to Sammy.
Mr. Wilson took to twitter two days ago to proclaim that given the low rate of death, only five deaths throughout the month of July, it would be “mad, for the Health Minister to enforce the wearing of face masks in NI.” Except, that is still five deaths Sammy. That is five grieving families. These are individual lives at risk, and if the mandating of masks can save even one life from this tragic virus, then it should unquestionably be done. Irrespective of some imagined cataclysmic economic fallout from a minority of anti-maskers deciding to skip their trip to Victoria Square. Then of course, there is the possibility, which it seems Mr. Wilson has failed to consider, that perhaps mask wearing encourages people during a time of such uncertainty, that they can safely re-enter and support local businesses! Imagine that. I think Sammy’s got it wrong on this one and need’s to rethink such an irresponsible and insensitive standpoint which lacks any credibility. Perhaps he just doesn’t wish to hide that impressive moustache of his.