Home   Ipswich   News   Article

This is how many people are still wearing face masks in towns across Suffolk




Just over two weeks after Covid restrictions were relaxed, the wearing of masks remains a highly divisive issue.

Whilst some people in Suffolk were keen to discard their face coverings at the earliest opportunity, many are continuing to wear masks indoors and out.

We sent our team of reporters out to some of the county's busiest town centres to find out what's happening where you live - here's what we found.

How many people in Suffolk are still wearing face masks?
How many people in Suffolk are still wearing face masks?

Bury St Edmunds

Masks were few and far between in Bury St Edmunds on Monday, although the majority were still wearing them in shops.

People passed each other freely on the Cornhill and down Angel Hill, with many people clearly choosing to forgo their masks.

People out and about in Bury St Edmunds
People out and about in Bury St Edmunds

Around 60 people were wearing their masks in the open air, with many of those in the arc shopping centre opting to wear them as they passed between shops.

However, masks were still worn inside shops, showing people are still opting to abide by the rules for independent shops and national retailers.

Chloe Hailstone, of Micks Cycles in St John’s Street, said that while they are encouraging people to wear a mask, fewer people are wearing one.

Micks Cycles, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Kirsty Barrott
Micks Cycles, Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Kirsty Barrott

“Not everyone is," she said. "We are encouraging people to wear one but we are not saying ‘can you wear a mask?’ when they come in.

“Before the date in July most people still wore one but a few didn’t. Since then there have been less and less people wearing them I would say.

“If I go into Marks and Spencer or the bank then everyone is wearing one, but smaller businesses I have spoken to have said that there are less people wearing them."

Frances Maulkerson, sales assistant manager at Loft & Spires, estimated that eight of 10 people are still wearing their masks.

“Our staff are still wearing masks,” she said. “And we have signs around the store to ask people to wear them, but it is optional.

“Eight of 10 people still wear a mask when they come in but it’s completely up to the customer.”

When asked about whether she had noticed a difference in the number of people wearing them in town, she said it was about ‘50/50’.

Ipswich

There was a mixed response from people out and about in Ipswich on Monday.

Joveen Jopseh said she would continue to wear them.

“It’s better to wear face masks,” she said. “There are still new cases coming up so I think it’s better to wear them in public.

“I’ll still wear mine around supermarkets and gatherings. It’s better."

A shopper wearing a mask in a supermarket. Picture: iStock
A shopper wearing a mask in a supermarket. Picture: iStock

And she wasn’t the only one. A 29-year-old teacher from the town, who said she didn’t want her name to be published because of her job, said she would carry on too.

“It felt a little uncomfortable without it. A lot of people were still wearing them and for peace of mind and comfort I felt like I should continue to wear it,” she said.

But she added she would only be wearing it indoors, and not when she was in the street like some people have been doing.

But 20-year-old Jamie Timms has stopped wearing his. “As long as you’re safe you don’t need to,” he said.

And Kyrhs Lock agreed, and said: “I don’t like wearing one. It makes me feel hot and stresses me out.”

They said they were getting tested regularly and would wear one if they were asked.

Haverhill

A quick headcount outside Aldi and Lidl in Haverhill on Wednesday afternoon found that in both cases, of the 20 people that came in or out in the five minutes our reporter was there, just four (20 per cent) did not have a face mask.

A stroll up the High Street also revealed that almost everyone was wearing a face mask as they entered a shop or the bank. There were literally just one or two people not wearing them.

At Lidl, one member of staff, who didn't want to be named, told me what they had noticed since it stopped being mandatory to wear a face mask inside the store.

They said: "It's been 50/50 but on the first day most people were still wearing them but as time went on more people have stopped wearing them."

Ryan Hatton, duty manager at the Tesco store in Haverhill, said: "From my own personal experience, having been in the store the last couple of weeks, it seems to be that more people are wearing them now."

Haverhill Tesco. Picture by Mark Westley
Haverhill Tesco. Picture by Mark Westley

The store, added Ryan, is able to provide face masks to customers if requested, and more people seem to be asking for them.

He said: "We are having more people ask for them, but people are wearing them more consistently. We are definitely handing out more masks."

Lowestoft

In Lowestoft on Monday, it seemed the majority of visitors were maskless.

Our reporter visited the South Pier Arcade in the morning, where five out of six families had opted to leave their masks at home for their seaside escape.

On the beaches, no one was wearing a mask but every family remained socially distanced from one another.

The High Street had a mixture of masked and unmasked shoppers.

People out shopping in Lowestoft
People out shopping in Lowestoft

Many opted to wear masks to walk to their tables in cafes and then remove them at their seats, while others wore theirs to dip in and out of shops, taking them off when walking in open air.

Some didn't wear a mask at all in the shops, showing opinion on the importance of mask wearing is still divided.

Sudbury

In Sudbury, the majority of shoppers are reportedly still wearing face masks, according to an independent retailer.

Health Foods and Therapies for You, a health shop based in North Street, says it has not required customers to use face coverings when entering the store, but most have continued to do so anyway.

Owner Jane Pearson said: "As staff, we are continuing with our PPE.

Jane Pearson, owner of Health Foods For You in Sudbury
Jane Pearson, owner of Health Foods For You in Sudbury

"For customers, it is optional. If they ask, we say, however they feel comfortable, but I have to say, most are still wearing masks."

Diss

Just over the Suffolk border in Diss, retail and hospitality workers said that, unlike with staff, there is no policy on customers wearing face coverings - but nonetheless almost all continued to do so anyway.

George Perry, 28, owner and manager of Rooms With A View, in St Nicholas Street, said: “I would say about 90 per cent of customers wear masks.

George Perry of Rooms With A View. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
George Perry of Rooms With A View. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

“We are asking people to wear them if they have them, and we would prefer them to do so, but ultimately it’s down to them. Even during lockdown some people were exempt anyway.

“We wear masks, so a lot customers will see us wearing them and pop it on.”

Fran Head, a volunteer at the Corn Hall, also in St Nicholas Street, added: “We are all wearing them - the only time we don’t is when we are behind our perspex screens - and nearly all of our customers are.

“Fortunately, we have also got a little bit of outside space, so people can eat food from the cafe and not wear them.

“99 per cent of people, when they come back in, will pop a mask on, and people are still happy to sign in and leave their details, too.”

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk