Paul Stevens

Why Does Your Doctor Want to Keep You Masked?

There follows a guest post by Paul Stevens, who is part of the Smile Free campaign to end forced masking in the U.K., which is currently inviting signatures to its open letter to the NHS Chief Executives to remove the mask requirement from healthcare settings.

Walk into your General Practitioner surgery and what will you see? Notices demanding that you ‘wear a mask’ and people with ill-fitting face coverings, most of which having been frequently touched, reused, rarely washed and improperly stored.

By contrast, in public spaces such as hospitality venues, retail settings and transportation hubs, you’ll find a lack of signage and a marked reduction in mask-wearing. More and more, people aren’t wearing them.

It’s as if we are living in two worlds: one where we have begun to return to a rational unmasked normality; and one, in healthcare settings including GP surgeries, where we are instructed to remain featureless and compliant with the facemask diktats of nameless NHS bureaucrats.

To understand how, and why, these worlds co-exist we need to start by looking at the frame of reference within which GPs operate. As independent contractors, for all intents and purposes GPs work within the NHS; and many are members of a single body, the British Medical Association (BMA). The NHS and BMA, one guiding and enabling the other, have played major parts in establishing and maintaining masking within healthcare settings.

The NHS has been a major advocate of masking and, as published on the Government’s “COVID-19: Infection prevention and control” (IPC) webpages, its current guidance for mask-wearing within health and care settings remains that facemasks for staff and facemasks or coverings for all patients and visitors are “recommended”.

Chinese Lockdown Sceptic Ai Weiwei Has Suffered Greatly For His Art

Last week, my wife and I visited the Ai Weiwei exhibition, “The Liberty Of Doubt“, being held at the Kettle’s Yard art gallery in Cambridge. For those who are unfamiliar with Ai Weiwei, the best way to describe him is as an artist and activist: his recently published memoir, 1,000 Years Of Joys And Sorrows, is a wonderful book, combining a potted history of China from the early 20th century up to the current day with recollections from his father’s and his own life.

The art on display is definitely contemporary and, in some cases, quite challenging: representations in marble of such everyday items as a Styrofoam takeaway box, iPhone case and even a sex toy tested my art appreciation mettle! However, the skill with which these objects are rendered is unquestionable and the ambition of some of the pieces is on a scale that can best be described as mind blowing. His “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” at this exhibition (depicted above behind the artist), rendered in thousands of Lego pieces, is both ingenuous and controversial.

But as well as being a wonderfully inventive creative, billed as China’s foremost living artist, Ai Weiwei stands apart from his peers because of his outspoken defence of human rights, and in particular his championing of free speech and expression. As a man who says what he believes and refuses to be quiet he has, for many decades, been in conflict with the Chinese Communist Party (he currently lives in Portugal, though keeps a base in Cambridge, where his son goes to school, and a studio in Berlin). That conflict has not come without a personal cost, one that most of us would be unwilling to pay. He has been beaten by the police, severely enough to have suffered brain damage (in fact, one of his new pieces in the exhibition is a representation of the MRI performed after the beating), and he has been held, initially without charge but then on the grounds of tax evasion, in conditions of extreme confinement and loss of all personal autonomy. We can say honestly that he has suffered for his art.