The emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in southern Africa in the last week is causing concern around the world, not least because it is thought to be highly transmissible and because the 32 mutations of its spike protein suggest it might be able to resist current vaccines.
A number of people have already been taken ill with the variant in Europe, including a handful in the UK, and Boris Johnson’s government has been relatively quick to act this time, imposing the first social restrictions on the public since “Freedom Day” on 19 July.
As preventative measures against Omicron establishing a foothold, Britons are again being ordered to wear face masks in shops and on public transport, more countries have been added to the travel “red list” and new arrivals from overseas will be required to take a PCR test and potentially self-isolate for 10 days.
Masks in particular have been a divisive issue throughout the pandemic, in the UK and overseas, with many framing the issue as a matter of individual liberty, not simply a healthcare precaution for the protection of others.
Londoners asked by The Independent about the return of the mask mandate have already expressed their frustration, with some accusing the prime minister of hypocrisy for declining to wear one himself at several recent public engagements.
But what do you think? When and where should we be wearing masks as the threat of Omicron looms?
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