'If anything we've upped the hand sanitiser': How Suffolk residents and businesses have been reacting to Freedom Day
While some people have been waiting with anticipation for all Covid restrictions to be lifted, others are treating the occasion of so-called 'freedom day' with more caution.
Suffolk News has been speaking to residents and businesses across the county to see how they're feeling as the Government has scrapped the legal requirement to wear face masks and stay socially distant as of today.
Walking along Felixstowe’s Promenade this morning was husband and wife Shaun and Alison O’Brien, who were enjoying a day trip at the seaside town.
Alison O’Brian said, with rising cases, it was probably too early to ease restrictions completely.
“I know deaths are still stable but that doesn’t mean they will still stay stable,” she said.
“In the last few days there have been still been quite a lot,” she said, and added she would continue to wear a face covering in shops.
For me it’s definitely not freedom day. What it’s done for me is restricted where I can go. - Felixstowe resident
Husband Shaun, 48, said the couple had taken their holiday now so they could avoid the busy period in a couple of weeks when schools will have broken up.
Like across the county, there is a split between those who are wearing a mask indoors and those that aren’t.
And while for some it’s Freedom Day - the end of government intuition into our private lives, for others it’s the start of a lockdown.
One 58-year-old man in the town, who didn’t want to be named, said his immunodeficiency meant he was now much more cautious about where he would go.
“For me it’s definitely not freedom day. What it’s done for me is restricted where I can go,” he said.
“I would usually go around the arcade but inside I’m seeing 40 or 50 percent of people without masks and, to me, it seems like everyone is out to get me.”
He said he understands why the government is unlocking now, and that the concerns of a minority cannot dictate what is done, but said he wished the government had still kept face masks mandatory in places people have to visit like supermarkets and public transport.
“Wearing a mask is no hardship when you’re inside a shop for 30 minutes, is it?”
Some stores have taken it upon themselves to keep the mandate in place.
John Barrett, who has worked at Hamilton Road’s The Card Centre since 1975, has said masks would necessary for browsing his store.
“I feel masks are still essential, as is sanitising hands,” said Mr Barrett, who inherited the store from his parents and grandparents.
“I have had no customer object and already four people have phoned me up and asked me my policy.
“And when I have told them about masks they all said ‘good’ and said they wouldn’t have come in the shop otherwise.”
He added: “I don’t understand what or how the wearing of masks has got to do with the economy.”
Ipswich's Butter Market, like many places, has seen a mix of people wearing a face covering and those not.
Christina Barnes, who lives and works in Ipswich, said it felt odd seeing so many people not wearing a mask after months of the government rules.
“I will continue to wear a mask indoors but because people aren’t around me, it does feel strange,” she said.
A 59-year-old man, who was one of only a few customers walking into the Sainsbury’s in Upper Brook Street without a mask, said he had moved to Ipswich from Australia recently, said he felt Boris Johnson had done the right thing.
The man, who didn’t want to be named but whose elderly parents still live in the town, said he felt had gone the wrong path.
“Australia have lost it, they are not vaccinating and there’s a lot of hysteria,” he said. “I think we’re nearly finished here. If you combine vaccines with natural immunity we must be at around 80 per cent.”
Megan Tuck, who works at Lipstick and Locks in Sudbury, said: "We’re pretty much keeping everything in place at the moment.
"We’re still doing track and trace obviously, we have everybody give us their details and we sort of do our own thing as well as having the QR code on the door as we do find that not many people use that to be honest.
"We’re still keeping all staff and all clients in masks and we’re still keeping all our hand sanitisers, if anything we’ve actually upped the hand sanitiser in the last few days because you keep seeing the news of the cases rising and it actually is just making you more nervous."
She said one member of staff was currently 'really poorly' and off work with Covid.
"I just think we need to assess the situation for a few more weeks," Megan added.
"That’s what we’ve decided we’re going to do here just sort of see what happens in the next few weeks and hopefully maybe next month we can start about easing things a little bit."
Meanwhile, a Bury St Edmunds resident said she had mixed feelings about the restrictions ending today.
Margaret Pusey said: "I am 50/50, actually. I think it is up to the individual to make their own decisions clearly now.
"I would continue to wear a mask, and I will continue to do everything else and stay out of busy places. But that’s how I feel about it."
She added: "I do worry about the nightclubs, because most of the younger generation have only had one jab and some of them haven’t even bothered."
When asked what she thought of the restrictions being lifted today, one Newmarket resident who was shopping at the Guineas said: "It depends on people's circumstances really, doesn't it?
"From my point of view, I've been vaccinated twice and if they lift the restrictions on masks, I'll wear them in a place if it's protecting other people but out and about, if I'm in a shop and it's not busy, then I won't wear it.
"I think it's good and bad - it's one of those things, it could go well, it could end badly."