People in Aberdeen and the Highlands have shared mixed opinions about the relaxation of face coverings rules as the last remaining Covid restrictions are dropped.
The legal requirements to wear face masks in public places – including shops, public transport and other indoor settings – have been scrapped from today.
Despite the legal changes, people will still be encouraged to wear them – especially when there is a significant number of people – and the rules will remain as “guidance”.
And while some residents in Aberdeen will opt to continue wearing their masks, others have welcomed the decision.
One man, who just wanted to be known as Alexander, said he feels safe to be around people without face masks, although he is considered “vulnerable”.
The 67-year-old has been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for the last five years and has been exempt from wearing a face covering due to his condition. However, he said “it’s high time people move on with their lives”.
‘We need to move on with our lives’
Alexander added: “I’m personally in favour of the face masks rules being dropped today. If people want to wear it, then fair enough – it is an option and a personal preference, I guess.
“Because of my cancer, I’m in the high-risk category and have been exempt from wearing a mask except from the beginning of the pandemic, but I genuinely feel as safe as I can be.
“Covid is going to be with us for a long time – at one point it will probably become like the common cold or the flu – but it’s good to move on.
“At the end of the day, just live and enjoy life until you can, and what it’s meant to be – it’s meant to be.”
For Angela Davidson, today has been a milestone event as she left her home without a mask on her face for the first time in two years.
The 70-year-old said: “I decided to be brave today and go out and about without my mask for the first time, but I’m definitely still wary and can’t wait to get home.
“I even still have it in my pocket ready to take it out – it feels weird not to have it on after all this time.
“I have quite bad breathing problems myself, and I will probably still wear it on special occasions when it’s a bit crowded.”
Mother-of-two Nicola McLachlan, from Inverurie, also welcomed the dropping of the restrictions and said: “I’m glad the face mask are off – it’s so nice to see people’s faces again. And it’s also so much better for children to finally see smiles, rather than just masks.
“I’ve seen some places in Inverurie still have people with their masks on and of course, it will be a personal decision and it might also depend on where you work. But as a whole, I don’t think I’ll be wearing it.”
‘Wearing a face mask is about protecting others’
Although the majority were in favour of the easing of restrictions, some people like British Heart Foundation volunteer Mark Mearns highlighted the benefit of wearing face coverings.
The 57-year-old, who works in the charity shop on 31 Union Street, said: “Deeply in my heart, I believe Covid is here to stay and I will continue wearing my face mask wherever I go – whether that is when sitting in a bus or at work.
“I work at a small charity shop, meeting and greeting customers all the time – most of the times vulnerable people, and I don’t want to put anyone at risk.
“The numbers are still relatively high and I don’t think that threat is gone entirely, so I’ll stick to it for mine and others’ sake.”
Maurice White and his wife Ann, 62, also said they will stick to the rules in more crowded places when sitting in public transport or going shopping.
Mr White, 70, added: “It’s not about protecting myself, but protecting others. So as a courtesy to other people who still might feel wary, I’ll wear it in specific circumstances.”
‘There was a great need to wear them’
In Nairn and Inverness, people have showcased mixed opinions on the scrapping of face masks.
However, many have said they are likely to return to wearing a mask in crowded settings in a bid to protect them and those around them.
70-year-old Margaret Wilson from Dyce said it was “nice” to be able to enjoy a leisurely day shopping in Nairn without the need to wear a mask.
She said: “I have decided not to wear my face mask. I have the choice. I might wear it on a busy bus but in church we don’t have to wear one, which is great.
“There was a great need to wear them and there may be times I might wear it, for instance in a busy crowded place, but it has been nice going into the shops not having to wear one.”
Tommy McMullen from Orkney says he would rather not wear a mask if he doesn’t have to.
However, he says he will likely wear a mask when returning home to the islands.
The 46-year-old Tesco employee said: “I live in Orkney but I probably wear one when I’m back home.
“I’m exempt myself so if I don’t have to, I would rather not, but if it makes people uncomfortable I probably would.”
Meanwhile, one Nairn resident, who did not wish to be named, said she would continue to wear a face covering as she is concerned for the levels of infection in Scotland.
She said: “I am wearing my mask as the numbers are still high. I have just been in to the jewellers to collect a piece of jewellery.
“I went in and stood at the door and said ‘Will I or won’t I?’ and then she took her mask out of her pocket and she said ‘Well, we are.’
“I can see the numbers shooting up again. You can see how the number have risen over the last couple of weeks.”
‘We’re wearing them to protect ourselves’
Despite the change in rules, staff at Castle Jewellers on Nairn High Street are continuing to wear a mask in a bid to keep themselves safe.
However, they are not forcing customers to do the same.
One female employee said: “We are not enforcing them or asking people to wear them. People are coming in and asking do I need to wear a mask and I said we’re wearing them to protect ourselves.
“If people are going about with the virus, which they are and they are not wearing a mask, then we will protect ourselves. Our boss is not enforcing it, it is up to us what we do.”
Vicky Macpherson, 33, from Inverness expressed similar opinions.
“I have still got mine with me today so I guess its just out of habit really at this point for some people,” she said.
“I will maybe wear mine if places are crowded just for the sake of myself.”
Andrew Fowler, 38, an electrician from Muir of Ord added: “I have been wearing it in the shops but I’m not wearing it walking down the street. I probably will still wear them as I am that used to them.”