Some train passengers have hit out at the decision to re-enforce face masks on public transport and in shops, while others have criticised those who refuse to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced over the weekend that it was now compulsory in England to wear face masks in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers and public transport, unless people are exempt.
But passengers commuting into London on Tuesday had mixed views on the change in rules.
At Paddington Station, in central London, the vast majority of travellers arriving on trains from Wales, western and south-western England all wore face coverings when entering the station.
Others who walked up from the London Underground station also wore face masks.
But a handful of people were not wearing masks inside the station.
A 56-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman, who asked not to be named and were travelling from Paddington to West Drayton for a walk, said they were against wearing face masks.
The man, who said he had not been vaccinated, told the PA news agency: “I think it’s horrendous. There’s no benefit whatsoever. It’s virtue signalling and there’s no point wearing it.
“It’s trying to condition people to be controlled so that in the future we’re all going to become a technocratic world. It’s about compliance and control to bring communism into this country – a form of communism, technocracy, which is a form of communism.”
He added: “They’re using this to force us all to be conditioned and controlled to ruin Christmas for everybody.”
The woman added: “Masks shouldn’t have been used in the first place. It’s about compliance.”
Marc Zinnendor, who was travelling to Kingham in Oxfordshire, said he did not intend to start wearing a face mask.
“I never wear them,” the 52-year-old told PA. “They don’t work, they’re just a distraction from the Peppa Pig World disaster and all the Tory sleaze accusations.”
Mr Zinnendor, who works in telecommunications, described face masks as “courtesy coverings”.
“I find it annoying (seeing people wearing masks), because human beings are not programmed to socialise like that,” he said.
“Half your face is gone. I can’t see now whether you’re smiling or whether you are angry.”
Financial services worker Michelle Carroll, 40, who was travelling to Westbury, in Wiltshire, said she felt annoyed when she saw people not wearing face masks.
She said: “It’s infuriating. Everyone has a choice and approach about how they deal with these things. I just wish that people would just understand their impact and not be so selfish.
“I can’t change or persuade them otherwise. But I’ll carry on just doing what I want to do and try to keep as many people around me as close and safe as possible.”
A 62-year-old company director, who declined to give his name and was travelling to Bristol, said people should wear face masks “all the time” on trains.
He said: “As soon as I get on the train I put a mask on and I wear it all the time. I’ve got no problem wearing a mask in an enclosed space. I think it’s very arrogant and inconsiderate to not wear a mask.”
Meanwhile, a private healthcare nurse said she was worried about Omicron and seeing people not wearing face masks made her feel uncomfortable.
Andrea Andrades, who got the train to Paddington from Hayes in west London, said: “I don’t know what the new variant can do to me or my family.
“Everyone needs to be wearing face masks. I think they’ve forgotten about all the things we experienced months ago. No-one should forget about that or the people who passed away.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has described the measures being brought in as “temporary” and “precautionary” to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.
A Government spokesperson said: “As the Prime Minister has said, steps such as wearing face coverings in certain settings can help reduce the spread of the virus and will help protect the gains we have all worked so hard for.”