THE manager of Mapplewell and Staincross Village Hall has defended the decision to ask visitors to wear face masks on the premises – despite laws being removed months ago.

At the start of the pandemic, the government made it compulsory for people across the country to wear a face covering while they were indoors or in a crowded public space.

This legal requirement was scrapped on July 19 and instead businesses and firms could only recommend that customers wear the masks – something which very few continue to do.

But bosses at the venue say that if people enter the premises they are likely to be asked to either wear a face mask in the communal areas, or see signs promoting their use.

Manager Nick Hibberd said: “To date we have no notified cases of Covid that have been brought into the hall or, more importantly, notices of any transmission that have happened through any of our groups.

“This is very important to us as our visitors range from the very young to those well into their 90s.

“We also have a number of ‘high-risk’ visitors that are only now starting to get the confidence to go out and meet others.

“This is important in the fight against loneliness and isolation, which can be as debilitating as Covid or ‘long Covid’.”

It’s just the main communal areas that the masks are being promoted though, and in the main halls or conference rooms it’s down to personal choice.

Staincross and Mapplewell’s infection rates remain extremely high, above Barnsley’s average, at 814 per 100,000 people – and with around 600 visitors every week in the library, bosses want to do everything they can to protect people’s health.

“We still encourage people to use the hand sanitiser stations, open windows and doors, where practicable, and we still encourage social distancing and minimising physical contact,” he added.

“Some activity providers are also continuing to use the ‘one way system’ introduced at the peak of the pandemic.

“We feel, however, that simply by asking visitors to make a little bit of an effort and wear a face mask for the benefit of others, this could reduce further transmission.

“It also makes other visitors feel more at ease, thereby encouraging people into the building to enjoy the activities available or to put the library to good use.

“The bottom line is, we are a community run charity that has the community’s health and wellbeing at the forefront of our commitment.

“To us, it is a little short-sighted to provide classes for the benefit of both mental and physical health on one hand and then put people at potential risk of getting Covid, for the lack of using a small piece of material over the mouth and nose for just a few minutes.”