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The misguided mission to mask us The latest Covid-19 ruling could permanently affect our social relations

Credit: Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty

Credit: Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty


July 17, 2020   4 mins

Let me say at the outset that I am not ‘anti-mask’. I accept there may be some highly exceptional circumstances in which it may be legitimate for a government to compel citizens to wear face masks in public spaces. And, in such a scenario, it would not be unreasonable to expect the public to co-operate.

But I am far from convinced that the law requiring shoppers in England to mask up, which comes into effect next week, is rational or justified.

There is no scientific consensus on the efficacy of masks in the battle to suppress Covid-19. Some experts believe they do more harm than good. Until very recently, the Government’s own medical advisers were telling us that masks were of little use.

The timing is questionable, too. Why impose such a law now when the curve has flattened? Why not earlier when the virus was peaking (and, so far as I recall, supermarkets and other essential stores that remained open were bustling)?

I know some will argue that the Government is trying to encourage people to hit the shops harder in an attempt to rejuvenate the economy, and the order to don masks is seen as a way of assuaging the health fears of prospective shoppers. But I suspect that the order may in many cases have the opposite effect. There will almost certainly be a sizeable number who, puzzled and irritated by the measure, will simply choose to stay at home.

Defenders of the Government’s decision have drawn parallels with the requirement to wear seat belts in motor vehicles. But the comparison is weak. There is compelling evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of seat belts in saving lives. By contrast, the jury remains out on face masks. Moreover, the wearing of seat belts does not fundamentally alter the nature of our society or our relations with each other as human beings. I have seen, where I live, the effects of masks — on buses, on the street and in shops. They, for want of a better term, sterilise the atmosphere. The friendly smiles, the subtle expressions, the small-talk, the banter: all suppressed behind a strip of cloth.

Does the Government have an exit strategy on masks? With a vaccine potentially a long way off, will we be expected to cover up indefinitely? Is that an outcome that a majority of citizens are willing to countenance? Can we believe ministers when they say the law won’t be extended to include other locations, such as workplaces?

And what happens when the next flu epidemic strikes? How could the Government credibly refuse to impose an identical order to cover up? Again, is that something we will readily accept? Furthermore, should consistency not demand that we don masks every winter in future to help prevent some of the average 17,000 flu deaths that occur annually in England (in spite of there being a vaccine)? If not, why not? It is true that flu and Covid-19 are different viruses, but both are contagious respiratory illnesses which are transmitted in similar ways, so any marked discrepancy in the method of response would surely be illogical, would it not? Or is it perhaps just a numbers game? In which case, what is the threshold for imposing compulsory masks? Twenty thousand deaths? Thirty thousand? Forty?

Sadly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, to even raise these questions is to elicit a furious response from a section of society – particularly the Twittersphere – that appears slavishly compliant in its support for the Government’s position. Even those who challenge the wisdom and competence of Boris Johnson and his cabinet on virtually every other policy decision have suddenly become the embodiment of submissiveness over this new law.

Dare to challenge it, and you will find yourself accused of harbouring some wicked desire to see vulnerable people killed or ‘ignoring the science’ or being some kind of extreme libertarian. Rarely will your opponents put forward a considered and cogent response to your objections. Instead, they will use it as an opportunity to signal their own virtue. They support the compulsory wearing of masks, so they are by definition inherently better human beings. Hard evidence and facts can go whistle.

Every death from Covid-19 is a tragedy, but many seem to have lost sight of the fact that the vast majority who contract the virus will suffer either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Only in a minority are symptoms more serious, and in an even smaller minority fatal. Of course we must protect the genuinely vulnerable, an area where the Government has unquestionably fallen short. But the mentality that appears to have been adopted by some — that the virus presents a serious threat to the whole of humanity — is not serving us well. It is making us risk averse, generating needless panic and slowly recasting our social relations with each other. Perhaps permanently.

The law on masks is but the latest example of the mission creep that has marked the Government’s whole approach to the pandemic. The original justification for the lockdown — that it was necessary to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed — appears to have been lost in the mists of time. Those of us who warned from the beginning that the curtailment of our civil liberties might not end up being the temporary measure it was intended to be, and that we ought to be on our guard against ever-tightening restrictions, have, it seems, been vindicated.

Some would prefer there to be no debate at all — let alone any dissent —on all of these questions. In fact, the debate is only just beginning.


Paul Embery is a firefighter, trade union activist, pro-Brexit campaigner and ‘Blue Labour’ thinker

PaulEmbery

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Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Well done Mr Embery, yet again the voice of reason.

Despite the fact that this Chinese Plague is killing very few in the age group 0-59, this conversely, is where most of the clamour for ‘Masking’ will come from.

These ‘Shriekers’ will stop at nothing to demonstrate their synthetic virtue. They crave adoration, for their otherwise vacuous lives.
As someone who crossed into the “Valley of Death” sometime ago, I resent being lectured to by a bunch of self righteous prigs who seem hell bent on destroying this country, one way or another.

For many of us “the river of death has brimmed his banks and England’s far and honour a name”, but let us make our own decision on such an issue as masks. Do not surrender to the Shriekers, they know nothing.

Ian Black
Ian Black
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“the Shriekers”… first time I’ve had a good laugh in ages! Thank you

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Black

Yeah…and synthetic virtue
😉

dan3099
dan3099
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

‘Shriekers’ indeed. As I skateboarded past people -outside- today I had “SOCIAL DISTANCING!!” Shrieked at me from an outside-mask-donner (who apparently didn’t want to take it upon herself to create the berth she so desperately sought. Though she wasn’t over on the grass she expected it from me and to my point that skateboarding doesn’t work there: “WALK!”)

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  dan3099

I take it you agree with the term Shrieker then?

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  dan3099

I have found it amazing, watching the rioters on TV, to see the skateboard has become the hand to hand weapon of the ‘Antifa’ types. Not so obviously the weapon as a baseball bat is, but still very dangerous used as a club. Maybe that was part of why the shriek.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“Every death from Covid-19 is a tragedy” This is exactly what is wrong with maskers, ridiculous hyperbole of the sort of ‘if it saves one life’, I was sorry to see it in this article. Not all deaths are tragedy, some are just what it is, the end of life, some are mercy, some are a blessing to society. Life is a Bell Curve.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

My thoughts exactly, how have we become so feeble?

mark.kizer
mark.kizer
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

My reply to this “hyperbole” is usually “were you also concerned about the 81,000 deaths from influenza during the 2017-18 season?” (America)

kilmink087
kilmink087
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“Synthetic virtue” Great phrase! I also think that with so many truly deadly diseases all but wiped out by science people see this as some big adventure (we’re all in this together) without there being any real danger.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  kilmink087

A very good point that I hadn’t really considered. Thanks.

Miguel Reina
Miguel Reina
3 years ago

I’m an expat living in the Andalusian región of Spain. Masks are compulsory in all public spaces including public highways and the ministry of misery is vigilant in sanctioning non conformers to the tune of 100 euros. As the writer suggests, shopping is no longer an attractive proposition and my wife and I have simply reduced our spending to include a weekly grocery shop, nothing more. The straw that broke our backs was the requirement to wear a mask whilst strolling along deserted pavements… Madness. Spain is currently commiting economic suicide whilst her president tours Europe seeking bail out funds. He declares there is no plan B… I have a suggestion..protect the elderly and those seriously at risk at the cheapest possible cost and let the rest get on with it.

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Miguel Reina

As you do I will wear a mask once a week for essential food shopping but nothing else, my local town will not have my presence at any other time.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago

My thoughts entirely. I am willing to put on a mask to shop indoors (I don’t like shopping anyway and most of the people I was shopping for during lockdown have now gone online), but will very vocally resist being forced to wear one outside. Many of my friends say I’m being paranoid, that we aren’t being asked to do so – I believe, as is well argued above, that it is the logical corollary of the safetyism descending upon us. “My mask protects you; your mask protects me” – so if we’re wonderfully protecting each other, why would we ever take the masks off? Argh!

I do realise that I have a particular dog in this fight, as I am single by no choice of my own, and circumstances have led to my living alone in a place not mine. The smiles of strangers from across the road have been a lifeline during lockdown, as has been making cashiers laugh. Mask us up all the time and that is lost (despite friends who argue that masks do not hinder communication). Without human contact, we wither and die.

I hope everyone who is similarly worried will keep resisting further measures. I have, written to my MP to ask what the criteria are for rescinding this order, and will continue to remind those friends who are vocally pushing to “Just wear a damned mask” that they are effectively throwing me and those like me, not to mention anyone hard of hearing, gaily under the bus. (The same people who would normally be the first to sympathise with any mental health problem.)

I am genuinely worried by those who, comfortable working at home and surrounded by their loved ones, are happy to dehumanise and suck the joy out our entire society for the sake of “safety first”.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

“Live with a Mask, die with a Mask”.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

The hard of hearing are completely ignored by the virtue signallers, because we are not the current fashionable cause. I went into a shop yesterday in which the staff were all wearing facemasks, and couldn’t make out a damn word until I was able to get into a private room one-on-one without background noise.

Dana Eyre
Dana Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

We’d take them off when the problem goes away. It’s not hard, really, if we just view it as politeness and consideration and not obedience.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago
Reply to  Dana Eyre

And if the problem doesn’t go away? Which seems likely.

I am very glad for you that you don’t find it hard. I personally find that it cuts me off from human connection and am glad that mandatory mask-wearing is currently limited.

Where did you get the idea that I dislike wearing a mask on the grounds of “obedience”?

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago

Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been thinking for some time. This farcical mask policy is the cherry on the top of flawed policies, each one hastily brought in to justify the previous debacle. Having weathered the peak of the pandemic and seen all cause mortality long since return to normal rates, Boris and co. decide that mask wearing is pivotal to save humanity. Unfortunately they seem to have missed the irony in considering mask wearing in shops to be essential but allowing free and unfettered access to ones food and drink in pubs and restaurants.

How does one behave in the book shop with a cafÚ in it?…

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

As always, Paul is correct. And I, for one, will be doing very, very little shopping if I have to wear a mask. But we will always be ruled by insane authoritarians – elected or otherwise – and there is nothing you can do.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Not to mention the fact that the immune system requires exposure in order to strengthen. An argument may (or may not) be made for a short term use but anything that turns it into routine and longterm adoption could have serious repercussions

Willie Gunn
Willie Gunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

Beware the law of unintended consequences!

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

Yes, I’ve definitely thought the same. I’d like to know if the immune systems of people in the Far East, where these masks have been common for some time albeit mostly for pollution, have compromised their immune systems.

Willie Gunn
Willie Gunn
3 years ago

Excellent article, Mr Embery.

The problem with all measures put in place to deal with a safety or security threat is that once the problem is over the measures are never rescinded. No-one has the courage or integrity to say that it is now alright to return to normal.

As a consequence when the next threat emerges new measures are piled on top of the old ones. If there is an increase in infections this winter something extra will `have` to be done, face masks will not be enough, we will be required to wear see-through visors; the next wave will require disposable cover-alls; and before long someone will seriously propose some sort of sheep-dip outside shops.
The safety/security industry has a vested interest in exaggerating each and every threat because it means more jobs or more sales and definitely more profits.

And politicians just love it, it is good for their egos to order people around and make them obey ill-thought out and disjointed rules. They can`t control much……but they can control us and we blindly let them.

Dennis Wheeler
Dennis Wheeler
3 years ago

At this point the proliferating mask regimes are nothing but a means of social control, an exercise in tyranny to perpetuate mass fear and paranoia among the population. At a time when things should long since have begun to get back to normal, it is only getting worse everywhere, despite falling deaths (which the media seems upset by) and an IFR around .2% or less according to most reliable studies.

My state’s governor, with no legitimization by legislative or other input, wholly on his own without legal authority, recently purported to make masks mandatory in retail and most other spaces outside the home (except parks, etc) for the next month because of an alleged “spkie” in cases (said “spike” being around 300 positive tests on an average per day – though we aren’t told how many of those are asymptomatic “cases” of people forced to test because they want to have other basic medical procedures done, etc.). And most seem to be complying with this illegal and tyrannical measure.

It’s outrageous, and I simply refuse to go anywhere where it is required (instead of going into the grocery now, I order online and do curbside pickup. Other retail – such as bookstores, etc. I haven’t been to in over 4 months, and won’t until the mask regime of fear and paranoia is ended).

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Wheeler

Totally agree Dennis – here in the UK mask wearing becomes dictate in shops tomorrow. My main priority today is to stock up on essentials – later I’ll have an online shop on order, and I will enter no other shops until the insanity subsides

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

I notice there are more and more masks adding to the litter in my neighbourhood. They could themselves become agents of transmission of COVID I would think if a small child picks one up and tries it on. I really wonder if the people bringing in the compulsory mask laws have thought through all the consequences.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

I can answer that for you: no they haven’t!

Eric Baskeyfield
Eric Baskeyfield
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Smith

I’ve seen quite a few discarded masks in supermarket car parks. I also expect to see shoplifting increase as everyone is forced to cover up like d**k Turpin, making CCTV identification even more difficult than it usually is. So no, the dots haven’t been joined up at all really.

Mark Stone
Mark Stone
3 years ago

I agree entirely. I have to consider the real possibility that my business will fold – at the very least shrink to where it was ten years ago. And what does Boris/Cummings do? Put out the feelers on what the Shriekers will demand with “wear/not wear masks” comments and here we go again. Virtue signals and no real substance. I despair.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

Oh the madness. What happened to using a tissue and disposing of it? Have all the mask supporters become so stupid they don’t know how to use a tissue? As for asymptomatic transmission the WHO admitted 4/5 weeks ago that such transmission for all studies/evidence to date was VERY low. With an emphasis on “very”.

Just before I hit the “post” button a collegue came to me (Im on my lunch break btw) becasue their is an outcry that a person has died of Covid…..and yet they were knocked down by a bus. The reason for Covid on the death certificate? They had it an April and had recovered.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

I am in NZ and there were so few cases we got to know the details quite intimately. The final recorded death (thus far) was a woman in the older age group who had tested positive, recovered, subsequently tested negative and then died of something else entirely – that is almost 5% of our total mortality. ‘Covid related.’ Not a peep from anyone about how this must skew the statistics. Latest numbers seem to be showing a mortality rate of a strong seasonal flu. Throw in all the ‘hit by bus’ factors and it may not even be that.

D.C.S Turner
D.C.S Turner
3 years ago

Why not do some actual research on this? Start by looking at what other more successful countries do.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

There is such a huge genetic component to this covid, it would appear, that what works for one may be not useful to another. Vietnam did not get much covid at all (zero deaths!). Vietnamese use chopsticks, therefore if we all use….

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

Successful at what? If you mean saving lives then maybe we should wait to see which countries have been successful or not. Different measures around the world at the moment, but regardless they all show a similar curve of infection and mortality, meaning that we haven’t ‘controlled ‘ the virus rather it has a mind of it’s own

Could it just be that the more draconian the measures a country took, the worse the outcomes might be for those countries in the long run? Covid is not the only risk facing humanity right now, but according to some people it is, regardless how many people will undoubtedly suffer and die because of the response, not the disease.

Apply some lateral thinking

Mike Young
Mike Young
3 years ago

A great article and raises some interesting questions.

During the last few months I have seen the media and government lie about this pandemic. I have seen the government fail to protect vulnerable people. As such, we have seen over 27k people die in care homes and countless more who receive care in the community die. This action alone should see the government on a charge of manslaughter.

And whilst this carnage has been continuing we have seen governments around the world rush in to lockdowns as a result of the data coming out of China and Italy which suggested 25% death rate. Albeit most lockdowns were too slow to have any real affect, the UKs especially, along with many other European countries.

However, it soon became apparent, that the 25% death rate was not the real death rate. Not even close. The real death rate is nearer to 0.3%. Three times worse than a bad flu epidemic. This fact along with other data, reinforced the need to protect vulnerable people because the data showed 96% of people dying had very serious underlying heath issues and were mainly receiving care from the care sector. But by then, politicians around the globe had committed wholeheartedly to the lockdown policy and were unable to backtrack (A long term ubiquitous compulsion of all politicians worldwide regardless of political colour).

The sad truth is, these lockdowns will come to kill millions around the globe and dwarf the numbers killed by COVID. Look at some of the links below about the effects of 2008 economic crisis. An economic catastrophe that will look like a blip, compared to what we have unleashed as a direct result of lockdowns.

Furthermore, as a result of this lockdown obsession, most countries allowed their vulnerable to die as they became distracted with economic furlough provisions, how many times you could exercise, who you could see, who you could not see, how many tests we had done or not done, hospital building, getting companies to produce ventilators, wether you should or should not wear a mask and closing down institutions etc. All of which have had almost no effect, or in the case of ventilators and new hospitals, were not needed.

If this utter mismanagement of the world by the global elite was not enough, governments went on a massive propaganda campaign and combined that campaign with the introduction of new draconian laws. This lead to an overwhelming amount of support around the world for government lockdown policies, that has taken on a mind of its own.

At the start of the campaign governments were in control, telling people what they could do, what they could not do. Now, it is the social media twitter brigade that is forcing governments hands and setting the agenda. Forcing governments, regardless of evidence or merit, to find ever more abuses of power to keep us safe or to curtail our freedoms. Ironically, safe from a virus that ultimately, if it had been handled properly, would have killed fewer people than flu, which regularly results in 15,000 to 20,000 excess deaths.

Sadly, I now see it is a common occurrence for people to demand, terrorise, cancel out, abuse, humiliate (use whatever pejorative you like) to aggressively push their agenda on anyone who dares to disagree, even slightly. A good article is here https://unherd.com/2020/07/…. This was often the case, but it seems to have been encouraged by the response of governments. i.e. As governments has been more aggressive in pushing its message through its propaganda machines, so the twittersphere et al, has become more intolerant of other views that do not meet the COVID narrative.

The best approach would be, If it makes you feel safe then wear a mask. But for me, this is about what is reasonable compared to the level of risk. I have heard people saying they will wear a mask if there is a small chance it saves a single life. Well on that logic, they are agreeing to wear a mask for ever in all circumstances. In fact, they should do penance for not wearing a mask for previous flu epidemics which regularly, as mentioned above kills between 15k and 20k vulnerable people. Maybe they should consider a whole host of other activities that carry a small degree of risk in killing someone.

There are simply so many questions unanswered on the governments general policy. For example,

For the full set of data available, July 9th, London registered 45 new cases in a population of 9 million. I suspect it is a similar situation else where. Is mask wearing really necessary for this level of risk? If so, why not before?

This is in the current WHO report that advises people to wear masks “At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider”.

So why did WHO go onto advise the wearing of masks? Was it really due to the the statistical modelling they applied or was it due to what Newsnight exposed, pressure from media and governments around the world?

How does wearing a mask in a shop for 5 minutes help protect anyone when you can spend as long as you want in a pub, restaurant or workplace without a mask and spread and catch the virus?

If as I regularly do, see people touching the front of their mask, will the unintended consequences be more cases not less as they spread the virus via surface contact? There are many studies that suggest contact infection is large contributor to virus spread, which is why we are encouraged to wash our hands so much.

Why if 96% of people dying with COVID have serious underlying health conditions are we not spending considerably more effort in protecting them rather than trying to get people to wear masks? Most deaths have occurred in care homes and those receiving care in the community. But to date, the effort put into protecting these individuals is lacking terribly. Health workers, carers and other essential workers sent to work when their employer knew they had health conditions. No law brought in to stop this and no law brought in to isolate care homes from the outside world during the peak. Thankfully, some care homes chose to do it themselves.

What are the longer term consequences of not catching covid for future more virulent strains? A documentary shown on the BBC after a virus outbreak in the mid 2000’s (I think bird flu)) discussed this very point. The virologist on the program was so worried about future outbreaks she planned a trip to the infected regions with her children in the hope of catching it. She wanted her and her family to catch the milder strain to give her some immunity when a more virulent strain came along.

Even after considering all of these issues though, it is still rare to catch COVID. To catch it, be admitted to hospital and die is even less likely.. So mask wearing seems to me to be nothing more than a political stunt that governments across the world are engaged in to encourage people back into shops to rebuild the economy they have just unnecessarily destroyed.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih

http://www.awp.nhs.uk/media

https://onlinelibrary.wiley

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Young

I have to read posts like yours everyday to protect my sanity – otherwise I feel like the only sane person in a room full of nutters, all slowly bringing me down with them. Thanks.

Mike Young
Mike Young
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

Thank you Jamie. I know exactly how you feel.

Mike Young
Mike Young
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

Thanks Jamie. I know what you mean. What is also interesting is that excess deaths are now 560 lower than the 5 year average for the 4th week in a row, perhaps indicating that people died a few months earlier due to covid. Furthermore, despite the over counting of covid deaths, flu deaths are higher currently than covid but this is ignored by the media. And perhaps this is the most interesting observation in the latest data; Flu is respiratory illness and therefore you may expect a similar rate of decline in flu as in covid given the amount of social distancing and hand washing. Yet despite flu deaths having shown some decline from the 5 year average, it has not shown anywhere as near the same rate of decline as COVID. Why?

garethbrynevans
garethbrynevans
3 years ago
Reply to  jmitchell75

Same. It feels like a world-wide psychotic episode and I want no part of it.

roger white
roger white
3 years ago

I would agree that in certain circumstances a draconian law such as insisting the entire population wears a mask over their faces could be argued.

But how on earth is this one of those times?

Here in Devon we have been getting around 1 new case per week. Without any use of masks, this has been the case for about a month now.
No-one has died in Devon’s hospitals for several weeks now.

In the whole South West, numbers of cases are similarly very very low.

Why, at this time, when there is close to zero cases of a virus which targets the old & sick, but has minimal health consequences for those below the age of 60 in good health, are we imposing this?

Yes there is a very very small risk. There will always be. Even with a vaccine there is a small risk ( vaccines are I believe 98% effective at best).

There must be serious risk the use of face masks will be permanent. If we need them when cases are so low, & deaths per day ( when you look at the real figs from the NHS, not the rubbish data from PHE) are around 15-20, at what point would the arguments for their use not be just as valid?
at 5 deaths per week nationally. at 1? at zero for 1 month. at zero for a year?

You may well have seen by now the video from Canada on Twitter in which a man without a mask in a coffee shop acting politely & quietly is wrestled to the ground by police, sprayed in the face with some gas & carted off to prison?
This is where we are heading.

Mike Young
Mike Young
3 years ago
Reply to  roger white

Exactly right

lewisandrew9
lewisandrew9
3 years ago

Why do I not have to wear a helmet in case a tin of beans falls from a shelf?
Same toe capped boots? Stab vest.etc.
Me – one shop for essentials per week.max. No more high street.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  lewisandrew9

Last day of freedom from masks – I intend to stock up on essentials today, online shop later, then it’s getting fit enough to ride my bike to work, when we are finally back to ‘normal’.

I will avoid wearing a mask at all costs

Jonathan Bagley
Jonathan Bagley
3 years ago

I’m fascinated with the workers at my local supermarket. Only 1, of maybe 20, was wearing a mask yesterday. None of the young lads stacking the shelves wears a mask, but, more surprisingly, neither do the middle aged and elderly men and women. This must be their choice, so their working day is soon going to become very uncomfortable. What’s going on? Is this a rogue branch of ********** ? Does head office know? What does the manager think? I wore a mask for the first time yesterday, expecting Boris’ change of heart to have had some effect and me to be embarrassed. But still, the vast majority of customers were not wearing masks. Only 73 customers are allowed in at any one time, so there is plenty of space and probably no virus transmission. I’d love to see a TV crew turn up and interview the staff and customers. TV journalists would think they were on another planet. It would be very entertaining.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I think I’ll get a job in a supermarket!

Grenville Coakes
Grenville Coakes
3 years ago

The latest estimate from the Office for National Statistics is that
around 1 in 2,300 individuals within the community population in England
had COVID-19 within the most recent week, from 6 July to 12 July 2020
(https://cy.ons.gov.uk/peopl….

If there are 100 people in your local supermarket at any one time including the shopworkers, then on average you will only meet an infected person once in every 23 shopping visits – assuming you pass every person in the store. If you do happen to pass that one infected person briefly in a shopping aisle, what is the chance of you becoming infected? Probably very low.

richard steele
richard steele
3 years ago

One gets the sense that even one Covid-19 death is intolerable under the present climate. The sheer destruction of the economy appear to be of less concern, which this reader finds troubling. People die. People die every day. Why can we accept thousands of automobile fatalities each and every year, without shutting down all the roads?

andy9
andy9
3 years ago

There is evidence to support the effectiveness of masks, there have been laboratory tests measuring the effectiveness of masks at reducing exposure to viruses and these find they do provide a reduction. The UK Health and Safety Executive did a study back in 2008 (RR619 – available on their website) looking at effectiveness against influenza virus, surgical masks reduced exposure by around 6 fold, a properly fitted respirator (FFP1/2/3) reduced exposure by around 100 fold.

This and other research is why masks are worn by medical staff caring for COVID patients, surgical masks for low risk activities needing limited protection, respirator masks for high risk activities where higher protection is required.

I suspect there is little or no research or studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of mask wearing by the general public during a pandemic (this are exceptionally rare events), but as a private individual I’m happy to take the evidence from lab tests and extrapolate that a 100 fold reduction in a lab test is likely to provide a decent level of protection for me, assuming I use a mask properly and carefully.

I don’t enjoy wearing masks, they’re a bit uncomfortable, talking is difficult and frankly you look a little silly walking down the high-street, but realistically if wearing one can reduce exposure then in the middle of a pandemic I figure the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh the costs.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago
Reply to  andy9

The problem with the logic you have used is that taken to it’s ultimate conclusion everyone from the moment they are born until the day they die should wear a mask because the environment ALWAYS has viruses and bacteria…….

Let me quote a sentence from RR619 :
“The current UK Pandemic Influenza Infection Control Guidance recommends that workers who are in closecontact with patients should wear surgical masks to reduce exposure to large droplets.”

That’s the reason for masks, always has been, to protect PATIENTS in HOSPITALS or CARE HOMES.

Healthy people in normal environments have a thing called the immune system. It has evolved over millions of years in all animals because we are surrounded by RNA and DNA and some can cause harm. We keep our immune system healthy by exposing it to the harmless RNA and DNA. Masks reduce that exposure, sanitisers reduce that exposure. Did you bother to research the inhalation of virus from the mask if you have an infection ? That is where you re-breathe in the viral particles your body has expelled (or thought it had !) this goes back into your lungs and your viral load increases…..eventually leading to death via a cytokine storm.

andy9
andy9
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

I disagree my logic doesn’t support blanket wearing of masks, my logic was “.. in the middle of a pandemic I figure the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh the costs.”

The crucial bit is the balance between risk and cost, in the middle of a pandemic I assess that the risks from the virus to both myself and others outweighs the inconvenience of me wearing a mask.

As you point out we all have immune systems and health people can fight off colds and other viruses with little or no risk of harm, in this case the balance does not favour wearing a mask and certainly I have never wore masks previously to avoid infection. In that case it isn’t worth wearing a mask.

But of course the key thing about a pandemic is that these are caused by agents which even many healthy immune systems have little or no defense against, even healthy people can be significantly affected and they can pass the agent onto other more vulnerable than themselves.

John McFadyen
John McFadyen
3 years ago
Reply to  andy9

The unintended consequences are also a cost. Read the reactions above and below. Look at the footfall figures for our high streets, look at the massive sociological financial, economic and well-being storm we are about to enter because we over protected our citizens. A legacy that will cost far more than an acceleration of expected deaths and a small number of outlying younger deaths. I am 66 and would far sooner protect my children from the lockdown consequences and live a normal life with the infinitesimal risk involved. Most deaths have occurred in nursing homes and hospitals. Nursing homes and hospitals get hit every year by flu and 17,000 people die on average every year, some from complications of respiratory infection. Some of them die from pre existing disorders accelerated and complicated by Covid-19. Nursing homes and hospitals are also prone to Norovirus. Thus the original idea of putting effort into protecting the vulnerable even now has face value and in years to come will be seen as the way we should have approached this. It is not the plague and we are not living in the medically primitive days of Spanish flu thus the majority of the population are NOT severely adversely affected by this Covid-19 Virus. But hey who will be brave enough to face the political cover-up wall as the majority of world leaders hides the truth and those ‘experts’ who advised them and frightened the populace conceal their failure?

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  andy9

As well, people have been coughing and sneezing since year dot.

We are not meant to be encased in a hospital sanitary environment where our natural immunity isn’t primed.

Masks also cause serious backflow jets of pathogenic species both to the wearer and surrounds.

Here is the best and solidly
cited medical literature review regarding masks:
https://www.primarydoctor.o

Having said all that I think BJ perhaps looks rather better with it

andy9
andy9
3 years ago

Indeed, humans have been coughing and sneezing since year dot. We also had regular epidemics and pandemics which came around every 50-100 years and killed quite considerable numbers of people.

Fortunately most of the major killer diseases have been tamed because we can prime our immune systems using a vaccine, rather than through infection with the live agent with the considerable loss of life which that entails.

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  andy9

Most of the major illnesses were already decreasing because of improvements in public health and sanitation – but we seem to be doing our best to undermine those gains with the lockdown.

Health comes fundamentally from a robust immune system and not from a needle.

Having said that, there are RARE occasions for a boost — that does not contain dangerous toxic adjuvants.

Mineral oil is enough to make the immune system react, one doesn’t need nanoparticles

mRNA germ line changes is not the same as antigen based injections.

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago

I went down a rabbit hole reading about the author of the review you linked (Colleen Huber). She sounds like a quack and a snake oil peddler. I wont claim to have reviewed the studies she cited, but I would approach her article with a healthy dose of skepticism.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  andy9

In the middle of a pandemic? We’re not though, we’re at the end of a pandemic, and some epidemiologists are questioning whether this was a pandemic at all, some are saying that the data is suggesting that it is seasonal. A pandemic usually suggests a danger to the young and healthy. This is clearly not the case with Covid 19., so why the extreme measures now?

I would suggest that it is because people have been so frightened by the exaggerated media coverage that they need those same frightened people to return to normal activity, because there’s no evidence, at this stage, that masks will do anything to protect public health, and the NHS didn’t even need saving at the height of this. The only reason to wear a mask is to conform to a norm of collective insanity, nothing else

martin_evison
martin_evison
3 years ago

Mission creep in the pursuit of power, not public health evidently

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
3 years ago

God bless UnHerd and Lockdown TV for shepherding me through COVID times. They are a voice of sanity amidst a whole world of craziness. As a doctor it is nice to have somewhere to go to retreat into sanity and reason after immersion in a world of hysteria and doom.

Ian Black
Ian Black
3 years ago

Great article. But whatever your views on the subject, the consistent ‘chopping and changing’ on the subject with a total lack of competent analysis* shows the incompetency of this (and probably every) government.

* I refer here to the latest mash-up of statistics by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health statement, just before 2.00 p.m. Tuesday 14th July, in the Commons, https://hansard.parliament…. which is a illogical conclusion drawn from the National Statistics document released on 26th June https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop

John McFadyen
John McFadyen
3 years ago

Ok let us consider the unintended consequences of this whole debacle as they are also a cost. Read the reactions above and below. Look at the footfall figures for our high streets, look at the massive sociological financial, economic and well-being storm we are about to enter because we over protected our citizens. A legacy that will cost far more than an acceleration of expected deaths and a small number of outlying younger deaths. I am 66 and would far sooner protect my children from the lockdown consequences and live a normal life with the infinitesimal risk involved. Most deaths have occurred in nursing homes and hospitals. Nursing homes and hospitals get hit every year by flu and 17,000 people die on average every year, some from complications of respiratory infection. Some of them die from pre existing disorders accelerated and complicated by Covid-19. Nursing homes and hospitals are also prone to Norovirus. Thus the original idea of putting effort into protecting the vulnerable even now has face value and in years to come will be seen as the way we should have approached this. It is not the plague and we are not living in the medically primitive days of Spanish flu thus the majority of the population are NOT severely adversely affected by this Covid-19 Virus. But hey who will be brave enough to face the political cover-up wall as the majority of world leaders hides the truth and those ‘experts’ who advised them and frightened the populace conceal their failure?

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

Excellent work Paul.

stephen Cawley
stephen Cawley
3 years ago

Well said. You have expressed fully what I have been thinking for some time. Sadly, every time I seek to open the discussion with others, their ‘synthetic virtue’ (to use Mark Corby’s great expression) gets the better of them. As a Scot, it saddens me to see a once proud nation succumb to the dictats of the ‘Great Chieftain’ Ms Sturgeon.

chrisianmorgan84
chrisianmorgan84
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen Cawley

Lockdown fanaticism has taken over the mindset of the UK. I can’t have a rational conversation with any of my friends or family about this. It’s just constant negativity; almost a perverse love of adversity. The only place is can find any sensible view is on here and Spiked. I had to laugh this evening. At the local shops, I witnessed a “yummy mummy” type send her boy into the shop in a muzzle, I came out at roughly the same time as him to see mum sat there waiting in her idling diesel BMW pumping NO into all the surrounding flats. I’ve no doubt that if I had pointed out the irony to her I would have been met with a torrent of abuse.

jrlee1001
jrlee1001
3 years ago

It’s really quite simple. As more people start circulating, the risk of transmitting the infection increases. The situation gets closer to the way it was before the lockdown, and therefore things that would have made sense then start to make more sense. This includes things like wearing masks (or other face coverings). If we had done it then, a lockdown might not have been needed; ideally this way we can avoid another one. Here in Scotland, it’s been mandatory for the best part of a week now, and it’s not really been a problem. The fact is that before it was mandatory, almost no-one wore them, but now everyone does — the appeal to “common sense” didn’t work. Of course, one should always ignore the Twittersphere, where there is little other than ludicrous nonsense. But there’s no reason to ignore rationality.

Martin Norris
Martin Norris
3 years ago
Reply to  jrlee1001

The risk is the element which has been neglected. When there is little risk of contracting the virus it’s not common sense to wear a mask. People have been conflating possible with probable throughout this outbreak. It’s possible that you will catch COVID, it’s not probable, it’s even less probable that you will become severely ill. A large proportion of deaths have occurred in 1 setting (care homes). If we contextualise the individual risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID alongside the other daily risks we face then I suspect most people would choose to take little/no action. Instead, the pandemic of fear spread by politicians (including the First Minister of Scotland) and the media has led to the wearing of face masks in shops & other enclosed spaces at a time when there is little circulating virus (there’s absolutely no evidence to show that they need be worn outside, as the virus disperses easily in the open air). It would make sense to wear masks in circumstances where social distancing is not possible and when there is a significant amount of circulating virus but not in for e.g. supermarkets where social distancing is already in place. The wearing of masks is currently a fear/virtue-signalling/economic issue and not a public health one. These arguments represent rationality to me.

mstanleyross
mstanleyross
3 years ago

Paul deserves a larger role in Britain. Sadly I fear he will forever be squeezed out by the inteligencia who fear the application of common sense.

Steven Sieff
Steven Sieff
3 years ago

There is no exit strategy for masks because there is no exit strategy for a suppression approach. From close to the outset the Imperial report and the government openly accepted that we were entering a potentially unlimited cycle of protective measures. Nothing has changed. Take the SAGE comments on Social Distancing dated 22 June but released yesterday. Paragraph 5: ‘SPI-M-O do not believe it is possible to return to a “pre-COVID” normality, without levels of contact tracing and COVID security effectiveness that would be difficult to achieve, without some sort of additional increase in immunity, either through vaccination or infection’. Firstly query whether ‘levels of contact tracing and COVID security effectiveness’ do actually represent a pre-COVID normality. But that aside, authorities almost everywhere are clear that they don’t want to (openly) pursue herd immunity, so SAGE are re-iterating that everyone must wait for a vaccine.

It is interesting that masks appear more incendiary for many than social distancing. Possibly that is a case of masks being ‘the final straw’, but in a straight choice between the two, masks seem far less disruptive to ‘normal’ functioning of society than having to remain separated by a given distance. So if the government is hoping that they can use masks to phase out social distancing, would most people not perceive that to be a positive step even if they think the mask itself is really just for show?

The negative reaction to masks is often justified by the absence of supportive science. That seems fair, but I suspect many of us can intuitively accept that having some covering over mouth/nose makes transmission of droplets less likely by some degree. Most of us were encouraged as children to cover our mouth when we coughed or to sneeze into a tissue. The exhalation of droplets is more obvious when we are symptomatic but IF, as we are repeatedly informed, transmission can occur from an asymptomatic carrier, then presumably masks are likely to have some level of efficacy? I accept fully that none of this has been ‘established’ so we are in the territory of ‘best guess’, and that the benefit may be extremely small, but the guess does not seem to be an unreasonable one.

That brings us full circle to the risk/reward discussion. Those who oppose masks generally perceive there to be a low risk from not wearing them, so whatever slight reward may be gained, it is not required to combat the low level of risk. On the other side the risk is rated more serious, so any possible reward from the mask is worth having.

Given the absence of an exit strategy generally, the continued difficulty of restrictive distancing, and the distaste among many (including those who believe they are warranted) for mask wearing, I think that rather than focus on whether masks work or not, the better question is how we can create an exit strategy from our current position. The answer to that seems obvious. Use the inherent features of the virus to combat it. Most would accept that the risks to health vary hugely based on age and underlying conditions. More data is also emerging about gender and ethnicity gradually. The huge variation in risk profile allows us to use a nuanced approach to protection. So we allow people who consider themselves low risk to associate normally. If showing symptoms they isolate (this is not an attempt to achieve herd immunity) but otherwise they mix. The virus can spread through the low risk population with very little impact on health resources because the hospitalisation and fatality rates amongst the people who would classify themselves as low risk is so small. A lot of people will get sick to a degree but very few of those people will be seriously affected. And all of those people would have chosen to take that risk for the greater freedom that allows.

The common objection is that the risk to the vulnerable would be hugely increased by this increase in case numbers. That needn’t be the case. Distancing and protective measures would still be a necessary and fundamental part of protecting anyone who classified themselves as ‘at risk’. That classification would be optional, based on that person’s own risk assessment for themselves and their families rather than an arbitrary age cut-off.

Essentially we would transition from a system of largely untargeted distancing and restrictions to a system allowing individuals to identify their own risk and be treated by others accordingly. It would be extremely simple to understand and to implement, and substantially improve everyone’s position compared to the status quo. Additionally, to the extent that herd immunity is achievable, it would help get there.

See https://greenbandredband.com for the detail of how this would work.

Steven Strang
Steven Strang
3 years ago
Reply to  Steven Sieff

Why doesn’t anyone ever respond to this simple argument, that the safest and most effective way to go about achieving population immunity is to let young healthy people live their lives? It is as if the people insisting on mask wearing would insist on it in perpetuity. While I generally object to government imposition in the absence of even remotely convincing evidence, the effectiveness of masks isn’t even the point.

The spread has been slowed dramatically. New hospitals were assembled and disassembled and existing hospitals reduced staff and still haven’t returned to normal usage. As bad as things were in NYC, the hospitals survived and no one was denied treatment. North of NYC, hospitals never came close to exceeding capacity and were sending staff home early everyday.

I object to some arbitrary order being handed down without any public debate. People can differ about what they believe is draconian, but it isn’t ridiculous to recoil at the idea of being forced to cover one’s face. And as someone who spent a year living in Korea, mask wearing wasn’t as common as the media would have you believe. I saw a person wearing a mask every now and then, but they were far from ubiquitous.

People really need to consider the justifications offered for these measures. What will be the rationale going forward? Cuomo stated that, “You don’t have a right to infect me, “ ostensibly suggesting that humans don’t have a right to expose other humans to infectious pathogens. Ignoring the fact that the human isn’t the invader in this scenario, what’s the limiting principle to that statement? Is there a projected number of deaths that sets the standard and does the projection require any vetting to confirm some reasonable level of accuracy or do we just allow a single elected official to decide on a whim? And to those who think that masks are, “no big deal,” I ask is that opinion rooted in any science? My guess is that most of those people aren’t forced to wear a mask for very long. Are we allowed to explore the negative consequences of mask orders or are we all just supposed to shut up and obey?

Joann Buff
Joann Buff
3 years ago

If masks work, as proponents claim, then they also must delay herd immunity, potentially putting more people at risk due to the delay, and forcing high risk individuals into a longer term quarantine. How long do these people expect the high risk to shelter in place, months? Years? How is that compassionate? If only high risk people wore ppe, we’d all be better able to social distance from them. It’s quite a reasonable approach to protect the high risk while the rest of us work towards herd immunity, but yet the experts who advocate it have been suppressed by the MSM and social media platforms. Something doesn’t smell right. And that something is Fauci, the CDC, Gates, and the MSM.

V T
V T
3 years ago

The mask thing seems an odd thing to get so worked up about when compared to the continuing restrictions in so many other areas of life. As to scientific consensus, where has there been any such consensus about the approach to this virus? In places where mask wearing has been ubiquitous in public there have been significantly lower infection rates. That’s not scientific – there may be other reasons – but it’s suggestive – and masks are a minor inconvenience if it means normal activities can resume such as travel, shopping, attending sporting events, etc etc.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

We are rapidly approaching peak lunacy. Even if there was good science on the effectiveness of mask wearing to reduce transmission of the virus suddenly enforcing them at a time when cases are already reducing seems pointless. We are never going to eradicate Covid 19 without either a large proportion of the population having been infected or vaccinated.

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago

You are all missing the point. Not a word about how your glasses get misted up when wearing a mask. I remembered a scuba diving lesson years ago in a Tenerife swimming pool, where you spit on your mask to prevent misting. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

English Ginger
English Ginger
3 years ago

Devolution in England is on the wrong track. It is designed to weaken England as an entity with city regions competing for resources and funding. All of England loses but England’s small towns and villages lose the most.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago

I will wear a mask for getting a haircut, going to the supermarket and pharmacy, but for most other shopping will use online where possible. Thankfully some supermarkets have said they won’t make any attempt to enforce the wearing of masks, hopefully including my local one.

nickandyrose
nickandyrose
3 years ago

If somebody is foolish enough to get in my face over my not wearing a mask, they will be put back out of my face by means of my fist.

ltarget.esq
ltarget.esq
3 years ago

“There is compelling evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of seat belts in saving lives.”
There isn’t.

Jean Redpath
Jean Redpath
3 years ago

Is it not good manners to cough into one’s hand, or sneeze into a handkerchief (and then wash hands)? Yet “there is no evidence it works.” Works to do what? Such actions self-evidently stop large droplets from your mouth and nose travelling far.

Surely it is similarly good manners to breathe out into your own mask rather than into someone’s nearby face during a pandemic?

I’m mystified by the UK opposition to wearing masks when you’re in close proximity to someone else.

Perhaps that’s because your epidemic seems to be over. Most of the world is still in the midst.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago
Reply to  Jean Redpath

Our epidemic? Tantamount to a bad flu year? The mask dictate coming when excess deaths are actually lower than the 5 year average?

If you want us to wear masks now, then you must accept that on this precedent then we will be wearing masks every winter? Is that what you want, for people to be permanently masked but with no clear evidence that they work. Do you want this to be normal? Personally, and I’m sorry, but I think you’re crazy.

Adamsson
Adamsson
3 years ago

Wearing muzzles is keep the fear levels up and keep the people isolated. They will be successful in this

cft-rlucas
cft-rlucas
3 years ago

Do believe masks in enclosed jam packed spaces, tubes, some trains and buses, depending on transitory travellers and whether from locations abroad or at home, where infections remain high are of some use – little as some believe.
In Japan and elsewhere, where they do manage to keep infection and spikes low, masks are worn by many and suggested in winter months as respect for others.

Also, cannot help thinking the lack of retail with all its excesses and sometimes rubbish bought, might just serve to produce a different type of economy sadly needed but ignored at our peril in the need for change that is necessary in order to develop alternatives in a country that has thrived on being innovative in times of concern.

Brian Bieron
Brian Bieron
3 years ago

To me, the best argument for masks is that until COVID spread is down to near zero (and I am in the USA and that is not happening anytime soon) then mask wearing indoors in public is the LEAST INTRUSIVE course of action to help deal with the fact that many people get the virus and can transmit it without meaningful symptoms. You can’t say “Please stay home if you feel sick”. You can’t regularly test everyone who feels good! You can have everyone wear a mask so that the people who are sick, but don’t know it, expel fewer viruses. The other course of action when the disease spreads widely has been lockdowns. Lockdowns are terrible. Far worse. Is there another plan besides having society take the hit and hope our health care systems, which have minimal excess capacity, handle it?

Do you think humans fought Pants Mandates deep in our history? Maybe indigenous people when western imperialists showed up and made people wear pants?

J D
J D
3 years ago

Masks just seem like an unnecessary nuisance. Remembering to take one with you every time you leave the house is a pain, which I can’t see having any great benefit other than to make it look like we are all taking it seriously.

mptighe123
mptighe123
3 years ago

Making masks a legal requirement in unenforceable .Its been a legal requirement where

live for 2 weeks and I have not worn a mask once in the last ten days while I have been shopping . Many of the shops I visted ,the numbers vary but there are a lot of other people who do not submit to wearing a mask . No logic to it where you can go and sit in a restaurant for an hour or so with no mask and call in to the shop next door for 2 minutes and be required to wear a mask

urbanodeceltia
urbanodeceltia
3 years ago

Writing from Spain, where the superstition of the mask is now ever-present, and where we are forced to wear them everywhere, including outdoors and even if social distancing can be respected, I am sadly surprised that no more voices like yours are being raised in my country. Thank you for this very lucid and rational article.

Dana Eyre
Dana Eyre
3 years ago

Jeez I’m going a bit crazy on this. If folks would stop making a massive issue of this, and just do the normal citizen thing – follow speed limits, obey red lights, don’t pee in the pool, wear a mask – cooperate and consider others, act as if you’re not some Caspar David Friedrich character standing alone on a mountain top, then it wouldn’t need to be a government thing.

Andrew Meffan
Andrew Meffan
3 years ago

In photos of Asian countries’ mass transit systems there are always at least a few mask wearers. Turns out these people aren’t being paranoid or hypochondriac. They are feeling off-colour, know they are probably infectious and so are being considerate to their fellow people.
It seems we westerners have yet to tumble to this kind of consideration for strangers.
In my lovely job (dentist) I’ve been wearing masks daily forever. It means I can say things like ‘not far to go now’ without inadvertently spitting into my patient’s open mouth, 40cm away. A few years after I began practice, mandatory rubber glove use came in, as a way of reducing cross infection risk. You should have heard the howls of indignation from many of us who found it clumsy and annoying getting used to them.
It’s normal now.
With C19, experts initial downplaying of public mask use was probably due to the need to conserve supplies for high risk frontline staff. The shortage is over.
The benefit of general mask-wearing in public is that it’s a visible sign that the wearer is less likely to sneeze all over you. If most are wearing, then you can choose to give the few non-wearers extra distance.
Ideally a mask use culture would develop without compulsion. But sometimes – as in for example road speed limits – we struggle to get the bigger picture and end up with rules instead. That’s a pity, as with rules come busybodies who delight in becoming enforcers and informants. And common sense such as being maskless when completely alone is defeated.
After NZ unlocked I cobbled together a see-through screen/drapes system that hangs from my dental lamp as a way of reducing cross infection risk. This Heath Robinson affair as been remarkably well received by patients and my staff are keen to keep using it long after I’m fed up with it.
The key thing is the reassurance it gives.
The economic benefit of general public mask use – due to the reassurance it gives to people otherwise scared to go out – is huge.
Personally I would save compulsion as a last resort and for winter time and indoors.

Mike Young
Mike Young
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Meffan

Exactly wrong

Adamsson
Adamsson
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Meffan

Any evidence that the mask fetish in Japan reduces the spread of colds and flu?
No none at all.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

Tend to agree with Sidney Eschenbach. It’s weird how the simple requirement of wearing a mask has been the trigger for so much hostility. For Gods sake – it’s simply wearing a fabric mask over mouth and nose yet the doomsayers amongst our midsts have picked this as evidence of mass social control and stripping away of liberty etc etc. As for the arguments used by the author and others which suggest that the next possibility is that we will be subject to more state control and suppression when the next flu epidemic hits. I for one would lie to see a lot more people taking flu vaccinations.

I am also wondering how many of the comments here are from those over 65 And how many with other ‘health conditions whether being overweight, smokers or ex smokers, diabetic, high blood pressure and so onI.e heading to the vulnerable and at risk population. As someone has noted, if you don’t like wearing a small fabric mask, you really aren’t going to like a ventilator or oxygen mask.

Michael Weis
Michael Weis
3 years ago

I have found that most intelligent anti-maskers (also including those who aren’t “anti” but whose position is…OK I’ll wear one in public but it’s a very bad idea) almost uniformly ignore the basic difference between granting individuals the freedom to harm themselves (seat belts) and preventing them from harming others (masks and drunk driving)
I’ll also point out that when 2 people are close to each other, there are 2 masks at work to lower spew, viral load and risk of infection.
I’ll also report that when I present this critical element of masks, “anti” friends fail to acknowledge what I’ve said. A few will pull out a 20 year old study on hypoxia, but usually they change the subject.

connieperkins9999
connieperkins9999
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Weis

Did you read this article?

The argument is this: masks do, always have, always will reduce the spread of infectious disease – but we’ve never considered it worth the considerable impingement on personal freedoms.

Overnight, without consultation, without debate, the pendulum has swung so dramatically in favour of reducing covid19 infections that the masses are willing to accept a masked future with enthusiasm. The disconnect is dizzying.

I’m just returning from a brief trip to the US and I was alarmed at the hyper-moralisation around masks. It is not a regulation applied judiciously where social distancing is breached – it is a means of tribe identification, and has everything to do with the upcoming election.

It is predictable that the immune-compromised will question the end of face masks, should it ever come to pass, and they will be right to do so. We have rushed in with a set of mitigations with no consideration of their precedence, proportionality, or sustainability.

Brian Bieron
Brian Bieron
3 years ago

Connie – I am in the US. We went through tortuous months of lockdowns when only the New York City area and a few other cities had real outbreaks. The economic impact was bad and things needed to open up. Now cases are growing in many parts of the country and nobody with brains wants to shut down again. In that context, masks at least help reduce the spread, in particular indoors by healthy-feeling asymptomatic people. And despite the talk on boards like this how terrible an imposition it is, how seriously a limit on freedom it is, it is nothing like the shutdowns. Inconevneint, yes. A bit uncomfortable, yes. Sorta like when my job required me to wear a necktie to the office. Lockdowns are far worse on every level, including regarding liberty. So, two questions – 1. What’s your plan B when the virus is dramatically growing if masks are off the table? 2. How are requirements to wear pants different? Seriously, if some people find covering their privates uncomfortable and unnecessary, are you opposed to such requirements?

P B
P B
3 years ago

I’m very sympathetic to the fact a lot of people don’t like the idea of face masks (for a lot of different reasons).

People didn’t like wearing masks during the Spanish Flu either (https://www.history.com/new….

But just like that pandemic, this one too will end relatively soon. Life will then quickly return to normal. I’ve yet to read a compelling basis for thinking that liberal democratic societies will be permanently scarred, let alone collapse, as a result of mask wearing.

As things currently stand, the annual flu is not remotely comparable with the seriousness of Covid, either in terms of human or economic costs.

To my mind, the exit strategy for masks is therefore pretty simple: when the UK is no longer experiencing material Covid outbreaks (whether as a result of better test/trace/isolate, improved treatment, herd immunity via vaccination or T-cell immunity or whatever), the mask wearing in public places where social distancing is not possible would end. The policy can also be localised. Such an approach is in my view entirely consistent with the classical liberal idea that reasonable government intervention may be taken to prevent harm to others. The UK government scientific advisers have explained that Covid is likely to continue to have a material impact for a year or more, so the public already knows the rough timeline we’re looking at right now. This may not be the message people want to hear, but it is the message (subject to what I say below about whether or not we think making any changes to our lives is worth it).

I don’t see any basis for believing that once the Covid pandemic is over the UK public are somehow going to be brainwashed into refusing to take masks off — or that a newly dictatorial British government is going to try prevent them from doing so (or that the courts would allow that). It didn’t happen after past pandemics, so what’s so different this time? Indeed, isn’t the point right now that around a third of the UK public can’t be convinced to put masks on because the benefits seem too remote/unproven?

I’m also intrigued by the parochial nature of this debate. As in previous pandemics, democratic societies around the world appear to be willing to try mask-wearing in an effort to control Covid without the extreme policies (i.e. renewed lockdown-type measures) now being implemented by the likes of California, Florida and Texas as a result of the sudden resurgence of Covid hospitalisations and deaths there in the past couple of weeks.

With any luck, the worst of Covid is now behind the UK and Europe, but given what we’re currently seeing in the US and elsewhere, would you bet the British economy on it?

A quick scan of a YouGov report suggests that mask-wearing is now common in many liberal democracies: United States (69%), Germany (65%), France (78%), Taiwan (85%), Spain (88%), Canada (60%), Italy (83%), Japan (86%): https://today.yougov.com/to

I’m therefore curious as to what makes the UK so uniquely vulnerable to the alleged adverse societal impacts of mask wearing during this pandemic?

Maybe the better answer is that we stop trying to debate the merits of particular measures, return to life as normal, reinforce the health service to deal with the casualties, and expect our healthcare workers to take it on the chin so that the vast majority of us can continue with our lives undisrupted. And hope the economy responds favourably, notwithstanding the casualties. Maybe the mainstream scientific and economic consensus is completely wrong and this option is now in fact feasible (particularly given that treatment has improved and the infection rate in the general population is low, or because the herd immunity threshold may turn out to be as low as 20% rather than 70%).

However, given the uncertainties that still remain, I’m personally persuaded that the more rational approach in the circumstances is along the lines of this one, articulated by Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society:

Reasonable scientists can disagree on important points, but the government still has to make decisions. Take the example of face masks. The gold standard of scientific evidence is the Randomised Control Trial (RCT) ““ where different groups of similar people are treated differently and the end result is measured. There is hardly any useful RCT evidence on whether face masks are effective in reducing the spread of this or the influenza virus.

However, many practices that we now consider essential for good hygiene, such as washing hands to reduce viral transmissions, or the wearing of masks by surgeons, were not based on RCT evidence. Rather they were based on our understanding of how infections spread. In the case of COVID-19, we know that you can be infectious even when you do not have any symptoms. We know that coughing, sneezing, and even talking or breathing release droplets from the mouth that are a key means by which the virus spreads. We also know that cloth-based face masks reduce the spread of those droplets.

So given the stakes, even in the absence of RCT evidence, it was this understanding of modes of transmission and the need for precautionary common sense that convinced over 50 governments to make the use of face masks mandatory in situations where physical distancing is not possible or predictable such as busy public transport, shopping and other potentially crowded public or workspaces.

https://royalsociety.org/bl

Ian Black
Ian Black
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

“We know that coughing, sneezing, and even talking or breathing release droplets from the mouth that are a key means by which the virus spreads” Would you point me at the evidence please (serious question – forgive my ignorance if that’s what it is). Thank you

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Black

Below is a link to a recent article in the prominent UK scientific journal “Nature“, which surveys some of the peer-reviewed and preprint evidence.

In short, it was already very well established that SARS-CoV-2 is spread by droplets bigger than aerosols that are generated by coughing, sneezing and talking.

Now, however, it appears that the virus can also pass from person to person in tiny droplets called aerosols that waft through the air and accumulate over time, simply as a result of an infected person breathing (rather than coughing, sneezing, talking).

https://www.nature.com/arti

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Black

Follow the references in the Greenhaigh article I linked to earlier or see here..

BTW, ignorance is only a sin when it’s the result of breaches of Cliffordian ethics.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

‘this one too will end relatively soon’ – or not, if immunity is short-lived. Other coronaviruses cause colds and raise short term immunity.

‘the flu is not remotely comparable with the seriousness of Covid, either in terms of human or economic costs.’ – The Hong Kong flu of 1968 caused about 80,000 excess deaths, well in excess of this outbreak. There was no lockdown, so the economic effect was negligible.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

“As things currently stand, the flu is not remotely comparable with the seriousness of Covid”. Which flu? Presumably not the ‘Spanish’ one, or even the 1968 ‘Hong Kong’ one?

How can you really describe “Corvid” as serious. If one believes the figures, it is only killing 5% of those in the age range 0-59.
This an infinitesimal number, that hardly justifies the economic carnage that is being executed in its name.

The rest of us, those already safely in the Valley of Death (VOD) ie: beyond 59, should stop being so embarrassingly selfish and remember the ancient adage “moderation in all things”.

We in the VOD, should not expect society to sacrifice itself, for the sake of prolonging far too many of our redundant lives. Lives, which in many cases, have benefited immensely from the hedonistic plundering of the planet on an industrial scale, not seen since the glorious days of Ancient Rome. Is “Dives in Omnia”? not enough?

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Only killing 5% of age range 0-59 sounds a bit high? That is 500,000 people.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Dean

My ‘source’ was Elizabeth Harts’s post on the 20th July last. She was contributing to debate, subsequent to the Freddie Sayers interview with Dr Soo Aleman.

Her figures were based on Sweden’s experience, one of the most reliable available. The 5% is the recorded dead in the age group 0-59 from Sweden’s total of about 5,600 dead overall.

So we are talking about the end of the known World, as some shriekers seem to imply.

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I meant to refer to the seasonal flu, thanks for flagging that omission.

On the seriousness point in terms of human health, I’m going to defer to Sir David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University and President of the Royal Statistical Society. As reported in the FT:

“Covid has not appreciably increased the already tiny risk of dying for those under the age of twenty five. For those over 45, already facing a variety of ways to drop dead, Covid has been a large additional risk factor. During April and May, the risk of death increased by about 50 per cent for everyone over 45 in the UK, according to calculations by Professor David Spiegelhalter.”

https://www.ft.com/content/

As for the seriousness in terms of economic impact, central bankers would debate with you that the economic damage is largely self-inflicted, rather than being inherent in the nature of this pandemic. Hence the OECD’s forecast that Sweden’s GDP this year will take a similar hit to that of Denmark, where there was a lockdown. See: https://protect-eu.mimecast

On your broader philosophical question about where the burden should fall, as I said in my original post there are valid moral justifications on either side of that debate. But I’m focused here specifically on the merits of mask-wearing in the circumstances we currently face.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Thank you. My source is in my reply to Steve Dean, below. It is not quite as dramatic as your “risk of death increased by about 50% for everyone over 45″.

As to the predictions of Bankers or ‘Money Lenders’ to use the proper word, I have very little faith in them, since the colossal ‘Money Lender Scandal(s) of 2008.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Your house is more dangerous than Covid! 4700 people have died in the 0-59 working age/school age bracket. Last year 6500 people died from domestic accidents. So come on which more dangerous Covid or Chez Nous? 20,000 of the deaths to date from Covid were unnecessary and due to a screw up either by hospitals and care homes (according to Boris) or by government (accoring to the care homes). Either way that was 20k due to a screw up. When it started they jammed ventilators down throuts and killed 80% of patients becasue it was the wrong treatment. Deaths are now a tenth of that. So all in all when you take account of all the badly handled cases the true count is way way lower than a typical flu season. Oh and as I write this a person was killed by a bus but the death certificate states Covid….becasue thay had it in April.

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

On this point, I’m going to defer to Sir David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University and President of the Royal Statistical Society.

As reported in the FT:

Covid has not appreciably increased the already tiny risk of dying for those under the age of twenty five. For those over 45, already facing a variety of ways to drop dead, Covid has been a large additional risk factor. During April and May, the risk of death increased by about 50 per cent for everyone over 45 in the UK, according to calculations by Professor David Spiegelhalter.”

https://www.ft.com/content/

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Thank goodness for a voice of reason. What a fuss about nothing this whole debate about mask wearing is. As a good antidote, I would recommend an article by Owen Jones in the Guardian today which starts “The right are in power everywhere – but they can’t stop playing the victim.”

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

In addition to my earlier comment, I am somewhat puzzled as to why a Trades Union official seems to be proposing that workers should not have to wear masks and thus protect others from a potentially fatal disease ( the mask is to protect others as much as it is to protect the wearer). Firefighters can and do suffer and have to retire early from various occupational diseases which put them in the vulnerable or shielding categories . Is the author seriously suggesting that the answer is to put them in lockdown and let the rest of us go about our normal business , allowing the virus to surge and creating a very dangerous environment for those shielding and vulnerable – leaving them confined to home for months, years more. Surely not? The author makes no reference either to the enormous risks and the casualties/ fatalities amongst NHS workers. Strange for a Trade Union rep.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
3 years ago

There is no scientific consensus on the efficacy of masks in the battle to suppress Covid-19. Some experts believe they do more harm than good.

There’s lack of consensus in the sense that there’s uncertainty about the magnitude of mask efficacy and there are always some experts with contrarian beliefs. The cogency of arguments against [compulsory] mask-wearing has been low.

It is true that flu and Covid-19 are different viruses, but both are contagious respiratory illnesses which are transmitted in similar ways, so any marked discrepancy in the method of response would surely be illogical, would it not?

It would not. The non sequitur, “flu and Covid-19 are alike in two ways therefore the methods of response to them should be too”, is illogical.

David Bottomley
David Bottomley
3 years ago

With the best will in the world, I can’t see this item as anything other than a bit of a weak, alarmist political rant. ‘Slowly recasting our social relations with each other’! Just how is it recasting our social relations. Because we can’t smile at each other on public transport? How many times does anyone smile at other on the underground, you know that tube where we all do our utmost to ignore each other. Go to Japan and other eastern countries and it’s more or less the norm to wear masks at even the best of times.

chrisianmorgan84
chrisianmorgan84
3 years ago

We don’t all live in London. Where I live, normal friendly human interactions are still commonplace.

Sidney Eschenbach
Sidney Eschenbach
3 years ago

Voice of reason? This is insane. How does our fireman author think that Covid is spread? Does he think it’s an STD? Genetic or hereditary? Maybe lifestyle like smoking causes lung cancer? Really, it doesn’t matter what he thinks, because we know: IT’S SPREAD THROUGH DROPLETS EMITTED THROUGH THE MOUTH AND NOSE OF THE INFECTED COMING IN CONTACT WITH WET SURFACES, EYES, NOSE AND MOUTH, OF ANOTHER PERSON.

We know that, so how can an intelligent person even entertain his thesis, as it’s obvious that masks both inhibit the travel distance of the emerging droplets, and also reduce their entry into the wet surfaces of another. Simple facts.

I understand it’s fashionable to be a contrarian, but this is applied stupidity, and Unherd should be ashamed to push such dangerous stupidity.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

I’m in the Netherlands; no-one is wearing masks except for on public transport yet Covid rates are very low. Apart from that it’s entirely optional if people wear masks or not.

For some strange reason the wearing of a mask has become a statement of political allegiance for some.

jmitchell75
jmitchell75
3 years ago

We have lower excess death rates than a normal year at the moment in the UK, and we’re being told to wear masks now. If we are starting to do this now, then there is no logic to not wear them throughout the winter and through next spring, or forever really, because there are always nasty viruses circulating at ANY TIME.

The data clearly shows that this is not the exceptional disease (though I doubt you’ve bothered to investigate properly) they thought it was going to be – tantamount to a bad flu year despite all the dodgy death certificates which were clearly designed to exaggerate the mortality numbers.

Having said that, I am more than happy for you to lock yourself away and muzzle yourself for the rest of your days, so long as you accept that some of us are happy to take the ‘risk’ and value our personal liberty over the false and stupid hope that we will somehow defeat nature whilst destroying people’s lives based on one unexceptional pathogen.

I would call your argument dangerous stupidity, because it is based on virtue and emotion rather than facts and a weighing of risk and consequences

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago

I’m afraid Paul’s first sentence reminded me of the classic “I’m not racist, but…”

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Ha ha!