We received more than 500 comments on our Facebook pages as part of this discussion, with responses ranging from people saying it should become a regular habit to wear a mask if someone has a cold to those of you looking forward to ditching the mask and never having to wear one again.
Josh Packham took to the West Sussex County Times Facebook page and expressed strong feelings against masks, writing: "No way, they are conformist, degrading and anti social. We need to say NO there is no evidence they even work as in all the data there is literally no correlation to masks or no masks." A viewpoint that other readers vehemently disagreed with.
The need for it to be a personal choice was regularly voiced.
However, Tony Morris raised the point: "The problem with personal choice is that those who choose not to will continue to pass infection to others, including those wearing masks. Some still don't seem to have grasped that masks offer very limited protection to the wearer, but they do offer good protection for others when a mask wearer has an infection that they may be unaware of. Sadly, when people talk about personal choice, what they are saying in effect is that they want the choice to infect other people."
Pauline Stayt said she was happy to keep wearing a mask in certain situations, writing: "Yes when travelling on public transport and flights. Busy indoor shopping centres...maybe. Shops should keep hand gel on entrance. Will keep colds away and hopefully reduce the effects of future pandemics."
Sandra Edwards added: "I hate wearing a mask but if it gives me some protection against flu, covid and common colds then I will continue to wear in shops and crowded areas. Lot less colds and flu this year."
Paul MacFarlane from Worthing raised an interesting point: "Just to throw something into the mix if we get too into wearing masks etc are we going to stop our immune systems to naturally fight these viruses. I know covid is different but a cold or flu surely if we over protect our systems we will endanger ourselves and become more susceptible to these other things?"
Some of our readers felt we should follow in the footsteps of some of the Asian countries where mask-wearing is more prevalent.
Tim Kelly wrote on the Hastings Observer Facebook page: "I've not had so much as a sniff of a cold or flu, or indeed anything else, in the last 12 months. In a normal year I'd probably have had 3, maybe 4, colds/man-flu in the same period. Part of that is social distancing and part of it is mask-wearing. After the SARS pandemic that hit Asia in 2004 or so, mask wearing became common place in the Far East. I think it makes sense to continue wearing them. You can do what you want, but I'm masking up in crowded, poorly ventilated locations in future."
Graham Ashley Baldock took to the Eastbourne Herald Facebook page to say: "A lot of people are missing the point of mask wearing still. It's polite to wear one when going out and feeling unwell in other countries, so you don't pass on whatever cold, flu etc you're sick with quite so easily. Too many inconsiderate people in our glorious country. I'd actually love to see more people carry on wearing masks over here when they feel unwell and need to leave the house (when things are closer to normal)."
While Adam Hurley wrote on the Worthing Herald Facebook page: "It depends to what extent we experience seasonal variants and mutated forms of the virus. An outright no seems a little premature. We haven't exactly embraced masks like say, the Japanese have in recent years, but they will be a common sight on our streets for a long time now."
Cindy Marshall raised an interesting point of view about security: "I have a feeling muggers and shoplifters would be happy if it became the norm, give them greater anonymity without being conspicuous. Think back 18 months, if you walked into a bank or post office with your face covered they'd be hitting the alarms."
The impact masks have on mental health was raised, with reader Lindsay White writing: "I've been staying home purposefully to avoid going anywhere where mask wearing is required. Masks gives me panic attacks as they remind me of a near drowning incident I experienced as a child. I personally wouldn't want to have mask wearing become a permanent thing. But I also don't begrudge those who feel safer with a mask."
Other points of discussion were about how many people wear their masks, whether people clean them enough, and whether this pandemic has changed the way we view common colds and flu, especially in relation to going into work when ill.
Alison Hodgeheg wrote: "I think we should wear them to protect retail workers and each other in shops if we have a bad cold. Tbh I think this pandemic should be the end of going into work with a horrible cold, feeling lousy but turning up, and giving it to all our co-workers. Working from home can now happen if you have a cold. It should also be the end of children going into school ill, but still having a full day in the classroom. However, that last one may just be the pipedream of school teaching staff. It will definitely be the end of me allowing any violin pupils to turn up with colds. That will be a case of temporarily back on Skype/Zoom."
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