On Monday, in the latest step in Ireland’s battle against the Coronavirus, the wearing of facemasks became mandatory in most indoor settings.
The Kerryman photographers Michelle Cooper Galvin and Domnick Walsh took to the streets of Kerry’s two largest towns to photograph some locals as they went about their business and adjusted to the latest life altering change wrought by the pandemic.
The facemask is set to be one of the defining images of 2020 – and potentially far longer depending on how long it takes for a vaccine to emerge – but on Monday and Tuesday shoppers across the county seemed largely unperturbed by the previously unimaginable addition to their day-to-day uniform.
While many find the masks to be annoying – fogged up glasses, sweaty noses and an itchy face were the most common complaints – most were largely unconcerned at the imposition.
The novelty of seeing others in masks wore off months ago and facemasks, like house-keys and a wallet, are now just something you always bring have you.
While there had been concerns that many might refuse to wear a mask, that concern appears to have been largely unfounded.
As they have throughout the crisis, Kerry people have knuckled down and done what’s asked of them.
In Tralee, Killarney and other towns across the county people without masks – many of whom have legitimate medical reasons not to wear them – were a tiny minority in town centres and shopping centres.
Shop staff in Tralee reported little trouble and while a handful of unthinking contrarians objected, most shoppers were quite happy to put on a mask when requested to.
Tralee Chamber Alliance is encouraging all shoppers to mask up and alliance members that spoke to The Kerryman on Tuesday said the vast majority of shoppers – more then 95 per cent on average – were following the rules.
Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism also said that everyone in Killarney is complaint with rules. The Chamber has encouraged everybody to make one final push to ensure everybody’s safety and Chairman, Paul Sherry, has asked all businesses to keep the momentum going and to continue to enforce social distancing, face covering and other public health guidelines as recommended by the authorities.
Over in Kilgarvan, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said that almost everyone is compliant with the wearning of face-masks in his shop but he said he would not act as an ‘enforcer’ of the regulation.
“I am not going to stand at the door saying put on your mask but 99% are wearing masks. Anyone not doing it is because they forgot and I am not going to enforce that. It is not going to be problem so I won’t enforce it,” he said.
“I have signs up telling people to wear them. I don’t see a problem. Up to now it was about half and half but on Monday everyone was fully compliant.”
“There is the odd person who might forget it but when they see everyone wearing masks they remember but I will not enforce it in that case.”
He added that shop-owners are not the ‘enforcers’ of rules
“It is mandatory by law to wear them but no-body says we should enforce it. I am not going to people you have to do this.”