Sheffield & District Chess Association
Impact of Easing of Covid Restrictions
(This is an expression of my own views compiled in connection with an impending Executive Meeting, but I thought I would share it here. SM)
Face masks have for some time been required by law in various indoor settings, but that requirement ceases from 19th July 2021. However, that comes with government “guidance” advising people to continue wearing masks in indoor settings where there are a number of people outside ones sphere of day-to-day contact – people you do not normally come in contact with.
Public transport in particular has been singled out as an appropriate context where masks are appropriate at busy times, though not if passengers are sparsely “socially distanced” due to low numbers. Irrespective of the circumstances, those without face masks will no longer be subject to fines.
On the other hand, it will still be permissible for transport companies to require the (non-exempt) passengers to wear face masks (or other adequate face-covering) and may turn away passengers who refuse to comply. Further, if a passenger removed their face mask after boarding, staff would have the right to ask them to leave, though enforcement could be difficult. The onus of decision-making is left to the transport companies concerned.
The situation with public transport is just a specific example of the general principle that face masks are still recommended in various contexts, and transport organisations are not the only appropriate bodies - “competent authorities” is a term used by chief medical officer Chris Whitty - for whom the decision to require face masks may be appropriate.
Why not leave it to the individuals concerned? Because not all individuals can be relied upon not to unnecessarily endanger the wellbeing of others, and may unknowingly or irresponsibly take undue risk of transmitting the virus to others if not wearing a mask. Mask-wearing is primarily to protect others, and only secondarily to offer some protection to oneself.
The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, "We expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don't normally meet, such as on public transport." The traditional chess match creates such a setting.
Thus chess organisers and others may therefore feel morally responsible for considering whether, as with public transport, it was appropriate for them to impose requirements regarding face masks, or indeed other “Covid-mitigation” measures as have hitherto been required or recommended, "as a matter of social responsibility", to quote the phrase used by the Prime Minister in the context of nightclubs. Indeed, it is arguably morally irresponsible not to consider such things, or at least issue a “health warning” for the activities they organise!
Activities involving large crowds at indoor venues such as nightclubs are to be encouraged to use Covid-status certification with “domestic vaccine passports”, but chess matches seem not to be within scope of this idea, though chess congresses might be.
In my opinion, the S&DCA should consider this matter as part of its deliberations regarding resumption of relatively normal chess activity.
As with the whole of the restriction-easing process, the removal of any requirement for face masks, as with the removal of other restrictions such as distancing, is of course reversible, though the hope is that reinstatement will not be necessary. These things are to be reviewed by Government in September, and the outcome will depend on how sensible and circumspect people are in the next eight weeks or so.
(See also later piece regarding response of Bridge organisations.)