Julia Hartley-Brewer has sparked controversy with an anti-mask statement relating to her morning commute – attracting condemnation and ridicule from followers on Twitter.
The 53-year-old broadcaster has been an outspoken critic about some of the restrictions that have been implemented on normal everyday life since the beginning of lockdown in March last year.
She has won praise from some for her argument that “tens of thousands” of cancer and heart conditions have likely gone undiagnosed because of lockdown as doctors and GPs have avoided regular appointments to focus on the Covid pandemic.
However she may have crossed a line while telling followers on Twitter that she was gleefully mask free while riding the London Underground.
Taking to social media on Tuesday, Julia tweeted: “On my tube home from work today, half of us in the carriage were not wearing masks (I assume they also claimed their legal exemption).
“We all exchanged cheery smiles and nods while the mask wearers looked wary and weary.
“Masks are doing untold damage to our society. #ImDone.”
One follower mocked: “’We all exchanged cheery smiles and nods while the mask wearers looked wary and weary.’ Do I believe this – no!”
Another criticised the talkRADIO star for undermining mask use, tweeting: “We agree on so much Julia, but on this, we disagree.
“I really can’t see how hard it is for some(I assume “some” includes you), to wear a mask for a short period of time whilst in an inclosed place. This short moment could reduce the spread and subsequent hospitalisation of many.”
In an exchange with another follower, however, Julia explained she was not simply flouting Transport for London rules – which can lead to people who refuse to wear masks without reason to be fined as much as £6,400.
A critic tweeted: “Strangely, I’ve just crossed central London on the Central and Victoria lines and 9 out of 10 wore masks. Nobody looked or acted any differently to pre Covid times, just fewer people.”
They added: “TfL does ask you to wear a mask – why defy that common sense rule in a pandemic?”
But Julia replied: “It’s not a common sense rule. But I’m not defying it. I have an exemption.”
Meanwhile, other followers mocked Julia’s original tweet for another reason entirely – the apparent unlikelihood of people willingly smiling at each other on the tube.
One wrote: “No one has ever smiled at a stranger on the Underground. This is the most @_DHOTYA [Didn’t Happen Of The Year Award] tweet I’ve seen in a while.”
Mask wearing on public transport became compulsory, with risk of a fine if ignored, in June last year.
There have been mixed reports over the past year as to whether or not the wearing of masks helps limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, however in the UK it is required by law for members of the public to wear masks on transport, as well as in some enclosed spaces.