Coronavirus: Boris Govt Decides Masks Work After All

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Boris Johnson’s government has decided that face-coverings, actively discouraged until now, do in fact work after all, as the coronavirus lockdown begins to ease.

“As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household,” declares the official guidance accompanying the minor changes to Britain’s pandemic restrictions.

“This increased mobility means the government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”

Countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria came to this conclusion long ago, recommending the use of masks in some or all public settings and even making them compulsory — while in Britain health workers and border guards were banned from wearing even masks they provided themselves.

The new guidance says face coverings are not thought to provide protection to the wearer — although virologists have indicated that they can reduce the viral load on infection, which can lessen the severity of an infection and give the body’s natural defences time to ramp up and deal with it itself — and that their primary utility lies in preventing the “inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically”.

The guidance therefore appears to vindicate lay critics who argued against the official position that masks should only be worn by medical professionals and infectious persons from the outset, because it often takes some time for infectious persons to realise they have the virus, and asymptomatic carriers may never realise they have it at all.

Johnson did add, however, that he was only recommending a “cloth face-covering in encolosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and you’re more likely to come in contact with people you don’t normally meet… [because] face-coverings can help to protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease” — in line with the “my mask protects you, your mask protects me” messaging in Central Europe — “but this does not mean, I must stress this, this does not mean wearing medical face masks… which must be reserved for people who need them.”

This means the official position is that members of the public are still to be discouraged from wearing those masks with the most proven benefits in terms of protection against the virus, in the name of beating supposed shortages of such items for health workers — despite the government having previously claimed that there is no shortage of such items, and frontline staff only lack them due to distribution issues.

Boris Johnson’s government and public health technocrats are not the first administrators to U-turn on masks, however, with Germany now levying massive fines on people who do not wear masks despite Chancellor Angela Merkel having previously suggested that they would do more harm than good.

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