Wearing one is not ‘common courtesy’
HART welcomes Boris Johnson’s announcement of his intention to lift the mask mandates on 19 July, and allow people to take personal responsibility for deciding whether to wear one rather than relying on the government diktat. Some SAGE scientists are already expressing concern about lifting this restriction, with psychologists on the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) being the most vocal, predictably so given that mask wearing comprises a key element of their ethically-dubious covert ‘nudges’ that harness fear and peer pressure to promote compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
A major concern is that, even if the national mandates are removed, some local businesses will continue to insist that masks are worn on their premises. Persisting with a requirement for face coverings does not take account of the evidence that, in real-world settings, they are of little-to-no benefit in reducing viral transmission and are associated with a range of negative consequences. Nor — contrary to what Professor Whitty said — is it a ‘common courtesy’ to wear a mask because others may feel uncomfortable if they see a person without one. Many people, including the 1-in-5 of UK adults with hearing difficulties who may rely on lip reading, are at risk of social exclusion when around mask wearers. Furthermore, those who are aware of the profound social and psychological harms associated with masking the healthy in the community will also feel uneasy when around those with their faces covered.
It is encouraging to hear the Prime Minister say that we must now live alongside the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Continuously striving to minimise the danger posed by a virus, to the exclusion of the plethora of other risks we all manage as a routine part of a worthwhile life, is counterproductive. Indeed, the continuation of widespread mask wearing after 19 July will perpetuate the excessive fears many currently experience about returning to a normal life: ongoing mask usage is a ‘safety behaviour’ that may lead people to falsely conclude that their survival following social interaction was due to the mask rather than drawing the reassuring conclusion that it is now safe enough to return to normal activities. HART has no objection to individuals using masks if they so choose, but turning them into a social superstition — and requiring others, such as hospitality staff to conform so as to give a false veneer of ‘safety’ — is wrong.
An elderly resident in a care home, during a TV interview, recently said: ‘I want to live until I die’. In keeping with this expressed wisdom, HART believes we should all now be given the option to unmask, reclaim our humanity, and return to an enjoyable and worthwhile life.