A man was left shaken after being accosted for wearing a mask in Richmond last Tuesday evening.
Ben* was on his way to the shops with his headphones on when he heard shouting over the music he was listening to.
He then noticed a man who was about 6ft tall in his late forties approaching him.
The 26-year-old admin assistant explained: “He didn’t get proper over me or in my face, but he stood in front of me and shouted ‘you don’t need to wear that anymore’ and gestured, bringing his hand up as if he was going to touch my face.
“His hand steadily moved towards me. I was so shocked and I sort of threw a fist up and said ‘what are you doing?’
“He threw his hands up as if to say ‘chill out’. I just kept walking and processed it. It was so weird. For me it didn’t feel like I was in any major danger but I definitely was like ‘what the hell are you doing’?
“I was fine but I just know so many people who would have had a seriously rough time if that happened to them, if someone was more diminutive or if it was an older person who felt vulnerable.
“You don’t know where someone’s coming from, if they’re vulnerable or not, and to have these guys like walking plagues who probably haven’t worn a mask for the whole pandemic, you don’t know what potential threat that could be.
“That guy could easily have given me Covid and I could have passed that on to anyone.”
He felt shaken after the incident, and posted about his experience on Reddit where he received support from others.
He said: “There is this idea that this is over now, we’ve seen the worst of it.
“The UK Government has essentially been u-turning on so much that it’s really contributed to so many people feeling disillusioned.
“I think we’ve just opened up and done this freedom stuff way too soon.
“I’m going to wear a mask because I still think it’s the most sensible thing people can do.”
Freedom Day on 19 July marked the end of restrictions in the UK, and the requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted.
ONS figures released last week revealed that two-thirds (64%) of adults in Great Britain said they still plan to cover their faces in shops.
The same percentage (64%) plan to wear masks on public transport, while 60% plan to avoid crowded places.
Retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons have encouraged customers in England to continue wearing masks.
Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said: “Our colleagues’ safety is vital and many of our colleagues would feel more comfortable if those who can wear face coverings continue to wear them. We’ve listened closely to our customers too and they are telling us the same.
“We’re asking everyone to be considerate and, while we understand wearing a face covering will now be a personal choice, we want to ensure we best support and protect each other in the weeks and months ahead.”
Although masks are no longer mandatory under law, the Government said it still expects people to wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
On Freedom Day, London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged Londoners and visitors to remember that face coverings remain compulsory on all TfL services.
Khan said: “Public transport is one of the best and most convenient ways to get around and enjoy our city, and by keeping face masks mandatory it will provide an extra layer of protection and reassurance on top of TfL’s world-leading enhanced cleaning regime.”
*Name changed for anonymity