It is a long-established conclusion from the scientific world that face masks achieve no appreciable reduction in viral transmission. We knew this in 2015-16 with regard to surgeons and their patients (here and here). We knew this in 2020 from a gold-standard Cochrane review, an analysis of 14 studies on influenza and a healthcare investigation that concluded that masks “may paradoxically lead to more transmissions”. We knew this in 2021 based on the Danish mask study and two comprehensive evidence reviews (here and here). We knew this in 2022 in relation to primary schools and universities, and a debunking of premature pro-mask conclusions drawn from the Bangladesh study. And – as if more evidence was needed – at the start of 2023 we had the latest Cochrane review, yet again concluding that covering our faces with cloth and plastic does not significantly reduce the likelihood of contracting respiratory viral infections. Yet, despite this collective scream from the scientific community that the ‘MASKS DON’T WORK’, it seems that nothing will muzzle the strident protestations of the mask disciples, such as those at Independent SAGE.
A recent article in the Daily Mail led with the scary headline: ‘Scientists raise alarm over new Covid variant and call for return of face masks.’ Two of the scientists raising concerns were Professors Trish Greenhalgh and Stephen Griffin, the former announcing, “It’s, once again, time to mask up”, while the latter concurs – albeit more cryptically – with his recommendation of the re-imposition of a “mitigation-based approach”. Both Greenhalgh and Griffin are members of Independent SAGE.
When Independent SAGE was formed in May 2020, as an alternative to official SAGE, it claimed to be a group of multi-disciplinary experts whose mission was to offer the Government scientific advice on how to minimise deaths during the Covid crisis. In reality, it constituted a group of zero-Covid fanatics pushing extreme counter-pandemic measures: whatever non-evidenced, human-rights-infringing restrictions the Government proposed, Independent SAGE typically called for them to be longer and harsher.
A cursory inspection of the group’s membership explains a lot. The previously-mentioned Trish Greenhalgh is, undoubtedly, the most extreme spokesperson for the pro-mask cult, previously asserting that the search for rigorous scientific evidence was the “enemy of good policy“. The founding Chairman of the group, Professor David King, was the senior scientific advisor to the Government of Tony Blair, currently an influential advocate of globalist agendas promoting top-down control of the population. Another core participant is the lifelong member of the Communist party – Professor Susan ‘let’s-wear-a-mask-forever‘ Michie. Also, the current co-Chair of Independent SAGE is Anthony Costello, a Professor of Global Health and Sustainable Development at University College London and a former director at the World Health Organisation. Given the histories and affiliations of these group participants it was predictable that they would grasp the next available opportunity to call for the return of community masking.
Clearly, the use of the term ‘independent’ in relation to this group was a misnomer. In stark contrast, Dr. Ashley Croft – the independent expert commissioned by the Scottish Covid Inquiry – appears to be a much better fit for the role of supplier of impartial information, free from the shackles of groupthink and mainstream ideology. Dr. Croft is a Consultant Public Health Physician and Medical Epidemiologist. In his report he lists his conclusions about the physical measures taken against COVID-19 as follows (emphasis mine):
In 2020 there was scientific evidence to support the use of some of the physical measures (e.g. frequent handwashing, the use of PPE in hospital settings) adopted against COVID-19. For other measures (e.g. face mask mandates outside of healthcare settings, lockdowns, social distancing, test, trace and isolate measures) there was either insufficient evidence in 2020 to support their use – or alternatively, no evidence; the evidence base has not changed materially in the intervening three years.
It has been argued that the restrictive measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in individual, societal and economic harm that was avoidable and that should not have occurred.
This genuinely independent voice was not well-received in some quarters. Unused to the expression of viewpoints that deviate from the dominant Covid narrative, the mainstream media predictably squealed disapproval about Croft’s perspective and resorted to attempts to smear him for his “vaccine scepticism”. And no doubt those ideologues at Independent SAGE will – as I write – be doing likewise.
As the year advances, the evidence against mass masking continues to accumulate. In April, researchers at London’s St. George’s Hospital reported that a mask mandate in 2020-21 in their healthcare settings “made no discernible difference to reducing hospital-acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections”. And – lest we forget – we purportedly live in a free and open society where coercive restrictions should only be imposed where there is unequivocal proof of a pronounced and widespread benefit from adoption of the behaviour targeted; we are a million miles away from that scenario, and that is even before we consider the harms of community masking.
But will this quieten the pro-mask cult? It seems these perpetual advocates of face coverings are driven by some supra cognitive construct that trumps the empirical evidence. Mass concealment of human faces appears to signify something sacred to groups like Independent SAGE: is it equality, egalitarianism, altruism? Or could their persistent pushing of masks be simply due to cognitive dissonance: they have stridently trumpeted the practice for so long that it would now be too psychologically painful, and damaging to their status and self-image, to admit their previous energies have been woefully misplaced? Whatever the underlying reason, we can expect escalating appeals from the muzzle mafia over the coming months.
Dr. Gary Sidley is a retired NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of the Smile Free campaign.