Nothing illustrates the character of the British better than reactions to the mask-up. Here, when just about all but food shops and tobacconists were shut in a lock down, masks were compulsory from Day One. The first few days the law was in force, a staff member stood outside the door handing out masks to anyone who hadn't brought one. It wasn't over-prescriptive; a variety of scarves, pashminas and home-made coverings went unremarked - just so long as mouth and nose were covered. There were no arguments. Everyone complied. It wasn't a big thing.
More remarkably, there was practically no debate in advance over whether it would or wouldn't be effective, whether it was an unbearable imposition on civil liberties or on exactly how it was to be enforced. There were no impassioned declarations of defiance, no rebels vowing to die of starvation rather than don a mask in Tesco, no police chiefs planning cell capacity for mask-rebels.
That the UK will present an almost totally opposite reaction is actually a good thing. It's part of a British character that would also not have accepted without demur that Jews had to wear yellow stars or Downs children must be handed over for euthanising. And yes, I'm quite sure the PM agonised over it. He really is a libertarian - as Michael Deacon points out in the Telegraph -
We appeared to be watching a wrestling match between two sides of Mr Johnson’s personality. The side that is libertarian, laissez-faire and stoutly opposed to State meddling – and the side that, on the whole, would quite like fewer people to die of Covid-19.Well, I can only point out that Austria got on top of the first wave very quickly, with a mortality rate much lower than the UK's. How much of this was due to masks and how much to cleanliness, distancing and a very low population density I simply can't hazard an opinion. Mask prices here have fallen from 37.50€/50 to 15.99€/50 and as a second wave is now inevitable - which may actually be more severe than that in the UK - it's a good time to stock up.