On the government’s mixed messages on face masks and its failure at keeping a simple and coherent public health policy. Office workers, no. Customers, yes. In shops, yes. In restaurants, no. Next week, yes. Today, no...


First published in July 2020.


The Health Secretary Matt Hancock made some nonsensical media round today to tell us why office workers need not wear a mask at work, and also why customers need not wear a mask in restaurants either... but in shops, yes... but not yet... only from July 24... because presumably [sic] it is fine not to wear a mask before July 24.

On the BBCRadio 4 Today programme, Professor Matt said, “In offices you tend to spend a lot of time with the same people. Where mask benefits is from you spreading the disease to other people when you have relatively short interactions with lots of different people.

On Sky News though, the Health Secretary said that in hospitality, such as in restaurants, wearing a mask is NOT necessary because there needs to be table service – which is precisely when there are relatively short interactions with lots of different people!

Why is it they don’t want to make wearing a mask mandatory in offices? It is pretty obvious that once the government steps in the ‘wear a mask in offices’ territory, calls will soon come for mandatory masks in schools too. Then, mandatory masks in every public place... Libertarian voices and Tory libertarian backbenchers would immediately scream!

Even a 80 seats majority can melt very fast when MPs decide to rebel against their own government. Ugly politics knows no limits, no decency, even not when it involves public health.

Expect more U-turns on wearing masks in offices, however, regarless the libertarians’ screams, if the government sees the signs of a second peek or a second wave of coronavirus.

Mixed messages

In the meantime, Matt Hancock still says that the government is “following the scientific advice” on masks, even if what they really do is continuously sending mixed messages to the general public – as it has been the case all along the coronavirus crisis, whether it is due to their incompetence or by design.

During a Royal Society of Medicine webinar series on Covid-19 devoted to policymaking on masks for the general public, Professor Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary care health sciences at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford was asked why it is still fairly uncommon to see people in face masks in the UK, especially when compared with other countries. She replied: “I think the reason why people are not wearing face coverings is they’re getting mixed messages. Different people are saying the evidence is there, the evidence is not there, so I’m not surprised.”

Education vs common sense

Maybe educating people on the use of face masks would also be greatly beneficial to public health.

Professor William Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton, said that if governments are going to endorse wearing masks then there must be “an immediate education programme to show the general public how to choose the best quality masks, fit them correctly, wear them for a recommended length of time in a crowded environment and safely dispose of the mask, followed by washing hands.”

Sadly, this government believes that the great British common sense is enough. British people already know everything they need to know. British people do not need to be told or explained. British people know best.

Sure.

The table below proves [sic] the government’s point... greatly!

Over 50 percent of respondents in the UK have not been wearing a face mask outside to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus. / YouGov/Imperial College London - Statista

Not following ‘the’ science, but ‘their’ science

“Following the science” should not mean inventing the science that fits one’s political agenda but doing what is right to keep people safe from a virus that Top US public health expert Dr Anthony Fauci just said yesterday, “We haven’t even begun to see the end of it yet.”🔷


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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 15 July 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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