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Breathing easy: Retail workers and shoppers shed masks as normalcy seems ever closer

For most Victorians, face masks were a mild inconvenience in the fight against COVID-19. But for retail worker Mia Belic, they were a necessity.

As the 18-year-old removed her mask at 6pm on Friday when the government restrictions were eased, it wasn’t just a breath of fresh air she was met with, but the feeling of freedom that comes with the gradual return to normalcy in the wake of COVID-19.

Coles workers Brad Wilkinson and Mia Belic removed their masks at 6pm Friday when mandatory face coverings were lifted.

Coles workers Brad Wilkinson and Mia Belic removed their masks at 6pm Friday when mandatory face coverings were lifted. Credit:Joe Armao

“I feel like everyone’s going to be a lot more free, in a sense, like we don’t have to wear a mask but if we choose to we can, to keep ourselves safe,” Mia said.

“I’m just gonna breathe that fresh air.”

Wearing masks for so long has a physical impact, too, Mia said.

“I noticed that would get really red. And the next day, you know, I’d be breaking out.”

Coles worker Mia Belic.

Coles worker Mia Belic.Credit:Joe Armao

As well as being forced to wear a mask for her job at Coles in Port Melbourne, she had a sibling that was immuno-compromised throughout the pandemic. Her parents fretted about her returning to work, and insisted she be diligent in keeping her mask on throughout the crisis.

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