by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
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11:49

What will masks in schools actually achieve?

The lack of logic behind the Government's new Covid guidance is infuriating
by Kristina Murkett

This week the Government announced that secondary school pupils will once again be ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in ‘communal areas’ such as corridors. The Department of Education has said that the guidance is temporary and will be reviewed in three weeks (when most schools break up for the Christmas holidays).

The lack of logic behind this policy is infuriating. Why enforce masks in communal areas but not classrooms, where students spend the majority of their time and transmission is most likely? Why make masks mandatory for secondary pupils but not primary ones? Between the 10th and 20th of November, almost the exact same percentage of primary school students tested positive for Covid as secondary school ones (3.7 to 3.5), and we already know that primary school staff are just as likely to catch Covid as secondary school staff. 

There is of course an argument that we need to be cautious until we know more about the Omicron variant. However, if the Government is genuinely concerned about the transmissibility of Omicron, and its potential to evade vaccine protection, then it should act accordingly. 

We know that fabric face masks have very little effect — their inefficacy means they have already been banned in French schools — and this probably explains why Scottish schools have struggled with outbreaks even though face coverings have been mandatory since October half term. In fact, according to Oxford’s Prof. James Naismith, ONS survey data on Covid prevalence showed that ‘the Scottish and English approach to masking although formally different since July has made no meaningful difference to Delta.’

On the other hand, more filtered face coverings such as surgical or FPP2 masks give much higher levels of protection: up to 94-95%. If we are going to force students to wear masks (which is far from a given), then surely we should at least make them wear masks that actually work?

The policy seems to be yet another example of the government’s desire to be seen to do ‘something’ when in reality it is doing nothing; an action that is a distraction from their inaction. For months schools have campaigned for carbon dioxide monitors to monitor ventilation levels in classrooms, and despite the government pledging £25 million to improve schools’ ventilation, latest figures suggest that only 2% of schools have received these. Yet only 40% of secondary school teachers think their classrooms are well-ventilated, and 7% cannot even open their windows. 

I also worry about the return of self-isolation for contacts of the new Omicron variant, and the inevitable disruption this will have on teaching and learning as healthy children are forced to quarantine. What’s more it will hardly help vaccine uptake amongst teenagers (of whom only around 20 percent have been jabbed) — how can we tell them to trust the vaccine and yet restrict and disrupt their lives regardless?

When used correctly masks may well serve a useful purpose, but this halfway house is just performative hygiene theatre. As one student aptly put it to me this morning, “Here we go again, Miss.”

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anna moore
anna moore
9 months ago

pity the kids at school today – my daughter’s school have decided that all windows must be open now, rather than just one. Yesterday they sat through two mock GCSE exams, masked, freezing and weren’t even allowed to wear coats. Absolutely pathetic.

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
9 months ago
Reply to  anna moore

Pure evil and exactly why we’ve withdrawn our son from school as from today.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  anna moore

No coat? Open window?

Remember ‘Consumption’? The old name for TB, Tuberculosis, and the only treatment was to be kept still and cold for about 6 months in a sanatorium, to slow the metabolism and to stop the increasing scaring of the lungs by deep breathing. A great book of Betty McDonald’s time in one is ‘The Plague and I’ They told the incoming – if you do as told (lay in a freezing room under just a sheet and not getting up or talking for 6 months you would be cured) – if not you were tossed out, to inevitably die at home, because your bed was needed by another to save their life…..She did it, and lived many years after, but it was hard beyond imagining… (and by the way refrigeration was invented by a Doctor in Florida to chill patients for this treatment, the real ‘Science’, unlike the Fauci science)

People were tougher and less stupid than us back in time.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

PS, remember ‘The Magic Mountain’ by T Mann reviewed here in Unherd – back when it still played at the higher Arts and less on partying with celebrities and literary Genderism? –

That was in a Sanitarium on a line with the one above, but Posh, and in Davos Switzerland….how topical, the global elite, the Respiratory illness as the setting, and the endless issues of Time and what it is….It is a reality check/metaphor on this covid insanity, the Davos bit is pure Synchronicity….

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
9 months ago

Before covid there were no studies which showed masks work. Then within a couple of months of the outbreak and with governments desperate to get frightened key workers to continue to go to work, the “science” miraculously changed, and low, face masks did prevent infection against air born viruses!

Since then there has been a deluge of low quality studies, throwing out ridiculous numbers, like the latest which claims masks can reduce infections by 50%, which don’t correspond to the real world data at all, where there seems to be little to no difference between areas with mask mandates and those without.

I don’t think that masks have a zero effect and I’m not particularly aggrieved by having to wear one but the idea of science been corrupted to advance a noble lie does.

Perhaps it was necessary? Without it, key workers could have downed tools and there would have been chaos. Whether the long term damaged done to the integrity of science will be worth it though, remains to been seen.

Last edited 9 months ago by Matthew Powell
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

In fact there was a study about 3 years ago on the use of masks in hospitals that identified that they were ineffective even in a medical environment.
|On the strength of this study there was a proposal to stop using masks altogether in the NHS which, from recollection, was forecast to save £19m pa

Mel Bass
Mel Bass
9 months ago

Was that the study by Macintyre et al, 2015, in Vietnam, which suggested that cloth masks did more harm than good?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

The report has been buried now but it was a UK study.
I found it at the beginning of the lockdown when I was researching the effectiveness of masks

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago

“What will masks in schools actually achieve?”

They will achieve exactly what virgin sacrifices in the high temple achieve. Only difference is, instead of being lethal for a very small number, it’s inconvenient for a very large number. Moot point which is the better solution. Who would have thought Johnson and Raab and Sunak and Javid and Patel would in fact turn out to be true heirs of the Druidical Priestly Orders?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The masks are really just talismans, good luck charms to feel one is trying ones best, and to show you are trying ones best. I think medallions cast with Fauci on one side, and a vax syringe on the other, to be worn around the neck outside one’s shirt should be allowed instead of the mask – as both are equally effective at slowing the virus, and equally good at displaying ones faith in the ‘Science’ but the latter is easier and more comfortable.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I’ve never worn a medallion before, but the idea has appeal! I’m gonna look for this on Amazon and eBay tonight!

James Joyce
James Joyce
9 months ago

With respect, I disagree with the author’s position that masks serve no useful purpose. Au contraire! Masks allow virtue signaling, can contain important political messages (Let’s Go Brandon!), and train children from an early age not to question authority, the elites, no matter how much the policy flip flops for political, not scientific reasons.
“Here we go again, Miss.”

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
9 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

And masks allow our kids to grow 83 types of bacteria and 4 types of fungi every day. What fun!
Mask-pushers are both evil and ignorant.

Carol Forshaw
Carol Forshaw
9 months ago

Scotland (and I believe Wales) have continued to insist on masks in shops and on public transport since June. Their case rates have been little different to those of England and at times, have been higher. Insisting on the population wearing masks is little more than gesture politics.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago
Reply to  Carol Forshaw

In Scotland masks were never abandoned. The only concession is that you can go dancing without it.

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
9 months ago
Reply to  Carol Forshaw

Indeed Wales, with a Labour government, have had a mask edict throughout and recently passports, none of which have made the slightest difference. One divot said to me “ah well, it would’ve been worse without them”. He had as much evidence of that as there is that masks work!

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
9 months ago

What little that appears to be known about the omicron variant (buried in a number of articles) is that its symptoms are MILD! Given that natural immunity is more effective and longer lasting than vaccine immunity then I think we should all want omicron!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay Snoman

Maybe mild in the African population, who only have had half the Deaths per million of the West, so seem more robust at dealing with it – the population is younger and fitter.

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

the symptoms listed are what I experienced first time I had covid, I’m in my mid forties and whilst I’m not an ailing person I wouldn’t describe myself as young and fit and yet I’m still here. had Covid twice now and it was milder first time prior to having vaccines than second post jabs infection.

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Good point.

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
9 months ago

It’s achieved my son being withdrawn from school.

Warren T
Warren T
9 months ago

Given the extraordinarily low number of children who have died of Covid, and the serious lack of evidence that masks prevent spread, it is ludicrous, if not pure evil, to mask children in schools.
And yes, I understand that every life is precious and if your child was one of the 140 out of a total of 62 million children in the zero to 14 year old bracket that perished it would be tragic. (U.S.)
https://www.livepopulation.com/country/united-states.html
https://datavisualizations.heritage.org/public-health/covid-19-deaths-by-age/

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

And the 30k plus lives (and counting) that have been lost to the vaccines in Europe alone, was every single one of those precious too?

Eliza Mann
Eliza Mann
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Coffey

Are you saying that the Covid vaccine has killed 30,000 Europeans? What is your source for this figure?

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
9 months ago
Reply to  Eliza Mann

For the USA the CDC figures show that 148 times the number of children die from the vaccine as from Covid-19.
Not exactly answering your question but food for thought nevertheless.

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
9 months ago
Reply to  Eliza Mann

Covid-19 vaccines have indeed killed well in excess of 30k Europeans to date.
The UK (Yellow Card) reporting scheme data is highly obfuscated but can be found via this link. We’re rapidly approaching the 1,800 deaths milestone.
The EU reporting system (Eudravigilance) is even more obfuscated (shock horror) but they’ve racked up an impressive 31k deaths as of last week.
Haven’t been through the rest of the European nations recently so my 30k figure could be embarrassingly understated but apologies if that’s the case.

Last edited 9 months ago by Matt Coffey
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
9 months ago

Masks would help a lot with some of the pi55takes we used to do at school.
One of the simpler ones was mass humming. This was exactly what it sounds like. As soon as Sir entered the room, the class would start a tuneless, one-note hum. This would be fairly loud if everyone was doing it, but of course nobody could be identified doing it. If Sir strode in your direction to see if you were humming, you just stopped. Nobody else stopped, so the humming continued from the rest of the room.
On one occasion, Sir found he could make the humming stop completely if he took up a commanding position in the middle of the room – but it resumed as soon as he moved. He was thus stranded in position like Michael Caine at the end of The Italian Job, except that unlike Michael Caine at the end of The Italian Job, he did not have “a great idea”. Eventually, the bell rang. 
This would be even more effective if you had a mask over the bottom half of your face.

Michael Richardson
Michael Richardson
9 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

This could always be stopped by Sir selecting a pupil – any pupil – who would be taken to the front of the class, and given six of the best. The class would be informed that this would be repeated if there was further humming. Not allowed now, I guess, it might cause distress to the little snowflakes.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago

First we need to be educated about all this, and thus far, of the hundred youtubes I have watched, this is the best for a proper grounding, and is very recent – 2+ hours, yet is easy to watch as the personalities and info are well done. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lraR1R_Imi8

The above shows all this covid response is some mad Kabuki Theater kind of performance, done with vast cost, and huge numbers of unintended, harmful, consequences, and not about Health, but some other thing.

Money is the usual reason inferred, but that is not enough to explain how Every mainstream force has gotten board to push the agenda, and silence the non-agenda.

This is a calm and thoughtful host, a virus Doctor, and two people who head up organizations of of those destroyed by vaccine side effects, being so harmed themselves.

The fact is something huge is afoot, something sinister. The vax is not a vax as such as it is not ‘sterilizing, but just reduces symptoms so is really a medical treatment. But watch this tonight instead of some insipid Netflix dreck and get some grounding in the actual state of affairs.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Yes! Very good indeed! Many thanks.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago

In Scotland the masks have been compulsory in secondary school since last year, NOT the October break.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago

Interesting. Unlike the author, I think the right thing to do is to make a serious effort to reduce transmission. But even so I agree with her complaints. This half-hearted theatre is bad no matter which way you look at it. But then, what would you expect from the Boris?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

In the link – and one everyone should watch, I posted above the Dr talks of cross immunity. Studies show people who had the flu in 2019 had mild covid symptoms. There is very much some resistance from previous virus resistance. The one thing they go over and over is how the vax is a very narrow targeted thing, and that mutations will work around it eventually – where Natural Immunity will much better allow they system to cover mutated strains with its broader immunity.

There is even much mention of how this kind of vax is merely setting the people up for a catastrophic re-boot of the covid-19 mutating. Also the vax and then boosters cause a auto immune storm which may be causing harm on an increasing level each booster…. with each next one acting as a reinfection so causing a huge immune response which harms organs, and this super heightened state can have very problematic results. Natural in the healthy appears to be the way to go.

Last edited 9 months ago by Galeti Tavas
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

When we got the Spanish Flu epidemic, eveybody had ‘natural immunity’ to other strains fo flu. It did not prevent millions of deaths when the flu virus mutated. For now, getting natural immunity means you have to get sick, with a proven and immediate risk of death or long-term consequences. Vaccination greatly reduces those immediate risks – there is solid evidence for that. But you still think people should take the known risk of getting sick, in order to avoid completely hypothetical and unproven future risks from vaccination. May I say that I am not impressed?

Anyway, I will not watch your link. With present data it can be nothing but speculation. If you want to argue that vaccination is 1) useless, 2) likely to have lethal consequences, with about 150 years of evidence to the contrary, I want some very solid evidence before I will even consider it.

Peter Whitehead
Peter Whitehead
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Indeed, you should look for evidence for your decisions.
Another point: these jabs are entirely different from what we have used the past 150 years – actually more like 130 years. We don’t have evidence that they are safe, certainly not in the long run and absolutely not for our children .
The Spanish flu hit a young generation that had never experienced the flu. I believe there was a 30 year gap between outbreaks when the N1H1 was dominant. There were also some fairly disastrous vaccine efforts.
Hope this helps.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago

Any new drug or vaccine comes with risks the first time. The only way to know it is safe in the long run, or for children, is to use it for years and see what happens, In other words, if you want complete proven safety, you need to wait till other people have taken the risks for you. That said, these vaccines are *not* ‘entirely different’ from anything else ever tried. They are all new, since the virus is new, and the mRNA vaccines are a new take on vaccination, but they are close enough that there is no particular reason to expect trouble. And the short term effects have been tested on millions of people already, due to the pandemic. Considering that COVID has a proven, short-term risk of killing people, and the vaccine has a proven short-term effect of protecting against those deaths, and that the long-term effects of COVID have not been proven either, it would seem extremely unlikely that vaccination is worse than the disease.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I wonder what crack you happen to be smoking because what you say is so very misinformed and completely incorrect. Incidentally in terms of safety, the current crop of vaccines have given rise to a larger number of deaths and severe adverse effects than all other vaccines combined for the last 10 years. That’s not a great record. in the EU, there have been 30,000 reported vaccine deaths by the European Medical Agency with 1 million adverse effects; in the UK there have been around 1700 deaths from the vaccine; in the US around 17,000. So again what crack pipe are you smoking. Take the blinders off, open your eyes and see what’s really going on. This shouldn’t be a political issue but an issue of common sense and good medical practice (and the most important creed in medicine should be to first do no harm). i.e. Vaccinate the elderly and those most at risk because of severe underlying co-morbidities, but don’t push or mandate imperfect, non-sterilizing vaccines on individuals whose risks are very very small. All one does by doing this is to further prolong the pandemic, but perhaps that’s the idea all along.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Your last paragraph is worrying for a supposedly intelligent person because you are sorely misinformed. It is perfectly true that we have been conditioned to believe that vaccines are safe and effective, and indeed, the childhood vaccines, with the exception of the cellular version of the pertussis vaccine which is no longer in use, are very safe and very effective. The vaccines that we have had since the days of Jenner when he administered the first cowpox vaccine for smallpox in 1796 have generally comprised whole viruses that are either inactivated or attenuated (vaccinia virus used for the smallpox vaccine, for example, is a live vaccine whose effects are far milder than that of the related varicella smallpox virus).
Now the mRNA (Moderna and Pfizer) and DNA-based (J&J and AZ) vaccines are a completely different beast. First, the insert genetic material (RNA or DNA) into the cell to produce (using the cellular machinery) a single very specific component of the virus, in the case of SARS-CoV2 the spike protein. Second, the amount of spike protein produced may vary over an order of magnitude from person-to-person depending upon the efficiency of their translational and transcriptional machinery (the older one is, the less well this works, and hence aging). The strategy is a quick and dirty one in so far that while it made use of some relatively high tech to produce a vaccine in short-order, the vaccine itself is highly problematic because it is easy for the virus to escape by mutation, especially given that the spike is readily mutatable. And that’s exactly what has happened. The vaccines were effective for about 6 months or so, and then they failed and their efficacy went down the drain. Hence the need for boosters but who knows how long they will be good for. And that’s especially problematic since the mRNA vaccines in a liposome carrier cannot be multi-dosed safely (which is why all of Moderna’s anti-cancer mRNA vaccines failed in phase I clinical trials), and likewise the DNA vaccines in an adenovirus vector can’t be multi-dosed either since antibodies will be made against the adenovirus which will then be destroyed before being able to insert its payload into muscle cells.
The bottom line is that it pays to understand the technology and not just assume that because something is called a vaccine it is either safe, long-lasting or effective.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The bottom line is reliable data, as always. The last time I was pointed by a horrified commentator to a list of vaccine adverse effects, the list included at least one person who had died in a traffic accident shortly after vaccination, and a very common side effect reported was ‘sore arm’. I did not find it worth while to do a detailed analysis.

If the COVID vaccines have caused tens of thousands of deaths, it should be easy for you to provide solid authoritative data that prove this claim. By which I mean peer-reviewed or official figures, by someone with a reputation to lose if he is found to be playing games. If you cannot provide that, I will simply assume that you are picking your data to suit your convictions.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Just go to the EMA web site (European Medical Agency), the UK Yellow book and the US VAERS database. These are official (government) sites where adverse effects are reported, and check it out. But if you want to keep blinders on, that’s your affair. Just hope you don’t end up being one of those who have suffered a severe adverse effect after the nth booster.
Incidentally, my daughter who is a pediatric resident at a large children’s hospital in the US has already seen several cases of vaccine-induced myocarditis in young kids.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

I did a quick check of all three. What I could find in each case was access to databases of raw reports. What you actually need before you can draw any conclusions is a validated summary of which adverse effects there are, and whether they are likely to have been caused by vaccines. This is a major job of data analysis. Given that you claim to know these things with certainty, you must presumably have seen such analysis. Could you please give me a precise link, instead of pointing at the raw data? After all, if someone asked you for a piece of steel, you would hardly point them to the nearest mine?

For the benefit of third parties (you surely know) adverse reporting databases collect anything adverse that has been reported after a vaccination, without checking if it is relevant, or true, or has anything to do with the vaccination in the first place. As I said earlier, one such database included a post-vaccination traffic accident (irrelevant) and many cases of sore arm (trivial). Summary numbers for the EU give 751000 side effect reports out of 574 700 000 vaccinations. That is a bit over 0.1%, with every reason to believe that the vast majority are trivial or irrelevant. The relevant EU database has this disclaimer:
The information on this website relates to suspected side effects , i.e. medical events that have been observed following the use of a medicine, but which are not necessarily related to or caused by the medicine. […] . Only a detailed evaluation and scientific assessment of all available data allows for robust conclusions to be drawn on the benefits and risks of a medicine.
There are surely people who have done this analysis and have an authoriitative summary. You give us to understand that vaccines have caused lots of serious problems, including thousands of deaths, which must then be relected in those data. Please point me to those analysis – or admit you have nothing to back up your claims.

Last edited 9 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You’ve clearly got blinders on you. When that many cases are reported to different medical agencies in different countries tasked with collecting this information there is something there. When the American Heart Association puts out a warning today that the mRNA vaccines increase the risk of heart disease dramatically you have to take it seriously.
It is perfectly true that the US VAERS database is a voluntary self-reporting system but a study prior to COVID from Harvard indicated that it was way under-reported, which is hardly surprising given that it’s quite hard to do and most people are clueless as to where and how to report.
Now, instead of asking me to point you to these analyses and peer reviewed papers, etc…, rather than simply look at the raw data reported by the relevant Government agencies, I simply suggest you take your head out of the sand and actually investigate this for yourself. Because if you think the mRNA and DNA-based vaccines for COVID are as safe as your regular polio, MMR, DPT etc. vaccines you are literally living in cloud cuckoo land. Just anecdotally ask your friends and relatives whether they suffered any adverse reactions sufficient to make them not want to go to work the next day. Then ask them whether they experienced any adverse reaction to polio, MMR or DPT vaccines. And by the way I also happen to be an MD/PhD and I’m well aware of vagaries in reporting systems, etc.. But those vagaries are very much towards under-reporting.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

When you are looking at 570 million random people for several weeks each, a lot of stuff is going to happen, just by chance. What you need to know is not what happened, but how much additional stuff happened because they had been vaccinated. To evaluate this, the first thing you need is to go through those 750 000 reports, separate the sore arms and traffic accidents from the heart disease etc. and get some numbers for each. I could do that, roughly, but it would take me over a week and I do have a day job. Doing it properly requires knowledge, of the errors and pitfalls in this kind of report. Then you need to compare it with what would normally happen by chance, for 570 million people. That requires expertise. Only then would you be able to conclude anything at all. The worlds’ health agencies have done it already. The reports exist. But instead of simply telling me where they are, Mr. MD/PhD, you are asking me to search the scientific literature and do my own analysis.

If the data say what you claim, you could convince a lot of people simply by pointing us to them. Since you are not doing that, it is obvious that you do not have any such data, and you have made up your mind without doing the proper analysis yourself. I challenge you to prove me wrong. It is very easy – just point us to the data.