In a sane world, the legitimacy of using computer modelling as a rationale for imposing covid restrictions would be seriously questioned. In 2020, Professor Neil Ferguson (an epidemiologist at University College London) gained notoriety for his doomsday prediction that 2.2 million Americans and 500,000 British people could die as a direct consequence of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. These wildly inaccurate prophesies were largely responsible for spooking governments into imposing ineffective and hugely damaging lockdowns and, subsequently, the modelling methodology was heavily criticised.
This might come as a surprise to those working in healthcare, but since 27th January 2022, there has been no legal requirement to wear a mask or face covering in any healthcare setting in England. The other devolved nations have also followed suit. So why are NHS trusts and care homes still insisting on this?
Irrespective of setting, masking healthy people does more harm than good. Yet much of the NHS persists with the expectation that everybody (staff, patients and visitors) should continue to wear a face covering in their hospitals, health centres and GP practices.
On the 1st of June 2022, NHS England issued further guidance regarding the use of face masks in clinical settings. In what could be – optimistically – construed as further progress towards the Government’s ‘Living with covid’ goal, this latest official briefing directs hospitals and other care settings to end the requirement for staff, patients and visitors to wear face coverings in most wards and departments.
The evidence that masking healthy people in community settings reduces viral transmission is – at best – weak and contradictory. In light of this lack of empirical support for the effectiveness of face coverings, together with the multiple harms associated with them, HART welcomes the lifting of all mask mandates in the UK.
Mask mandates in high-school age children were continued in Scotland in the Autumn 2021 school term. At the same time in England, masks were made optional. We can compare the difference in case counts in both countries and see the effect of this difference in policy.
It would seem that Nadhim Zahawi’s most recent promised ‘material’ evidence for his recommendations for face coverings in secondary classrooms is as flimsy as some of the cloth masks our teenagers will need to resort to using.
17 June 2021 – This week, Boris Johnson squandered the opportunity to remove all the remaining COVID-19 restrictions, extending the mask and social distancing requirements until, at least, 19 July.
3 June 2021 – The 15 June will be the first anniversary of England’s mask mandate, 12 months on from the introduction of the unprecedented requirement for healthy people to wear face coverings.
27 May 2021 – The masking of healthy people in community settings is unlikely to reduce viral transmission, but has led to, and is maintaining, a range of profound social and psychological harms.