Are 'Mask-Only Hours' In Theatres, Supermarkets And Cinemas The Future?
(Photo: FG Trade via Getty Images)
Actress Liz Carr has called for more theatres to consider hosting separate performances for audiences who still want to wear face masks or socially distance – and others agree it’s a great idea.
Carr won best supporting actress at Sunday night’s Oliviers for her role in The Normal Heart.
Wearing face coverings indoors is no longer mandatory, which is why Carr suggests venues could offer “Covid-safer” performances.
“Theatre should remain accessible even to those of us who have health conditions,” she told BBC News. “If I’d had a five-minute speech, I would’ve talked about how I haven’t been to the theatre in over two years. This is a frightening night for me.”
Liz Carr, who Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the Laurence Olivier Awards 2022. (Photo: Ian West via PA Wire/PA Images)
If you’ve been to a theatre recently you’ll have (probably) noticed a lack of masks, but continuing to wear them despite the relaxation in rules could make a big difference.
Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy for Covid, says people should very much still be wearing face masks in indoor public settings, regardless of the official government guidance.
Dr Nabarro told Sky News: “It is absolutely not a good idea when cases are as high as they are, when the virus is moving as rapidly as it is, for the restrictions that we’ve all applied so carefully to be dropped.”
Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, previously told HuffPost UK: “Masks dramatically reduce transmission, though they don’t stop it entirely.”
As well as protecting other people, multiple studies suggest face coverings also offer some protection to the wearer. Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests people who don’t wear face coverings in confined spaces are one and a half times more likely to test positive for coronavirus than those who use a mask.
So, should we start introducing mask-only spaces?
Michaela Hollywood, a 31-year old disability rights activist from County Down, Northern Ireland, says “yes”.
Hollywood loves going to theatre, and her sister – who is also disabled and a wheelchair user – is a performer. “In many ways I was a stage door kid listening to rehearsals. It gave me a fond love of theatre and I would go to shows every chance I get,” she says.
However, Hollywood hasn’t been to theatre since late 2019. “I’ve been actively considering it now that antivirals are available for my condition in the UK should I catch Covid, but with the removal of the need to isolate in Northern Ireland, I’m feeling a bit apprehensive and haven’t made the call yet,” she says.
If people would wear masks in the theatre, Hollywood says she wouldn’t feel “barred from that space”.
“Theatre in my experience is an inclusive world, where everyone is family - including the audience,” she says. “Wearing masks when you can is protecting that family. I know some people can’t wear them, and that is okay. What I want is a safe space for both sets of audience where we can enjoy theatre again.”
While some on social media have raised concerns about the financial implications for theatres if they introduce mask-only performances, many others have shown support for the idea, saying they’d welcome mask-only hours in theatres, cinemas, supermarkets and beyond.
Theatre and cinema managements please take note. You will regain the support of many former theatregoers who don’t feel safe in the current COVID maskless freeforall. Liz Carr calls for mask-only theatre performances https://t.co/2uhXH0P4Ef
— Vivienne Rivis 💙🦕 (@VivRivis) April 11, 2022
We used to go to the theatre regularly and have done for about 15 years.
I can't see us going again with my husband being clinically extremely vulnerable.
Mandatory mask wearing would definitely help us feel it's a possibility.
— Vintage Bunny Ⓥ🌈 (@FarawayBunny) April 11, 2022
I’m CEV, I shielded and only just started doing things I enjoy again. I’m pretty certain I caught covid at the theatre (a few weeks ago). It was the first time I had gone to the theatre since covid started, I used to go to the theatre all the time. It doesn’t feel safe anymore.
— Lauren McDougall (@shoogle_mac) April 11, 2022
cinema often has special shows for autism etc do why not one for masks for those vulnerable s as nd want to wear masks. Seems polite
— Gary Moore, Author. Small Church Pastor in Dover (@TLCdover) April 11, 2022
Masking the audience also benefits the actors on stage(when we’re talking live theatre) especially in a small theatre.But yes,if they are going to remove mask mandates,they should allow for evenings that are for masked audiences only in movie theatres.
— Lady Jessica 🇨🇦 🇺🇦 (@Princessjesster) April 11, 2022
Yes Liz Carr, yes. Only time I've been to theatre was @BristolOldVic who have done socially distanced, masked performances. Should be standard offer from all theatres, cinemas AND live music events. Make masks 😷 condition of entry, make everyone welcomehttps://t.co/emEC3a0HND
— EmmaChampion (@EmmaisaChampion) April 11, 2022
I am not vulnerable but I will be wearing a mask to @_bridgetheatre this weekend. I don't want to get ill and a mask is no bother. I would love to attend masked performances.
— Nat, stanning Bimini & Ed Milibi (@NatRaybould) April 11, 2022
It would be nice if shops would also have face mask only hours (and enforce it). The first supermarket locally that does that gets my custom - provided it's not at 8am!
— Dr Annie Byniaeth #FBPE 🇪🇺 #FBIW🏴 (@AngharadHafod) April 11, 2022
What do you think?
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.