Retired doctor says residents who refuse to wear a mask are putting vulnerable at risk

A retired Pendle GP has urged the public not to flout Covid safety rules in an impassioned plea to protect the vulnerable.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 3:57 pm

Dr Caroline Palmer, who worked for 20 years at Colne Health Centre, and still lives in the area, contacted the Burnley Express and Leader Times to express her frustration that many people were still not taking the virus seriously.

The 66-year-old, who has not been able to see her autistic brother throughout the pandemic, said everyone must make sacrifices for the common good.

"I understand how hard it is," she said. "I have an autistic brother who is learning disabled and doesn't understand what's going on. I haven't been able to see him. I also have a 93-year-old mother who lives in a care home and who I have only been able to see sporadically.

Retired GP, Dr Caroline Palmer

"Many people have made sacrifices like this. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned by the sizeable minority of people who are not abiding by the Covid rules. Firstly, there seem to be many people shopping in couples or family groups, as if it is an outing, rather than an essential duty that one designated person is doing on behalf of their family."

Dr Palmer, who has also written to local politicians with her concerns, said she was concerned that not enough people were wearing face masks and that she had even received abuse when questioning those that did not.

"Many people are not wearing face coverings in shops and indoor spaces, flouting the mandatory requests to do so. When I have politely asked them if they have a mask they have said that they 'have a card', and when I've said that I'm sorry that they are unable to wear a mask, but wondered if they've considered wearing a visor instead, they have abused and shouted at me, thereby putting me at risk of infection.

"Some of those 'wearing' a mask are also doing so incorrectly, with their nose poking out above it, or slung under their chin, thus exhaling possibly infected breath into the air.

Dr Palmer

"I have spoken with the staff in several shops who all feel unable to enforce the law, and in some cases, have felt worried about retaliatory actions if they were to say anything to the offenders.

"One couple I saw this week refused an offered mask, the woman then brandished one from her pocket, but then promptly failed to put it on when in the shop. They were both flagrantly ignoring the rules. I feel very strongly about this totally anti-social reckless behaviour by a sizeable ignorant minority.

"As Professor Hugh Montgomery said on the radio the other day, 'people who refuse to wear a mask and protect others, have blood on their hands'. If people aren't able to wear a mask properly, and refuse to wear a visor, they should not be allowed into the premises and should instead be instructed to order food online for home delivery."

Dr Palmer, who has put her name forward to administer the vaccine, said she was disheartened by the number of conspiracy theories regarding the wearing of masks and the vaccine itself.

She also said that people lucky enough to have been untouched by the virus were living in a bubble and not seeing the effect it was having on those working on the front line.

"I have an acquaintance, a 58 year-old ex patient, who died of Covid infection and know several people who have been seriously debilitated after contracting the infection. I also have several friends and colleagues working in 'hot hubs' on Covid wards and ICUs who are traumatised by the extreme stress of the workload.

"I have to go out to do our shopping and always take careful precautions as I have relatives in care homes who are shielding and other family members who cannot drive and are at risk due to medical conditions, but it is increasingly with trepidation, as so many people do not seem aware of the gravity of the public health situation.

"Some 50% of people who are infected and carrying the virus have such mild symptoms that they are totally unaware of it, but with this new more contagious strain of Covid, they are capable of infecting four or five other people, rather than the one or two previously.

"I feel very strongly that there should be much greater encouragement to the public to follow the public health rules, and also tighter restrictions to enforce the law about this."