A student at the University of the Highlands and Islands has got in contact to ask if I can put her in touch with people who have not complied with any mask mandates since March 2020. This is for her dissertation on threats to identity. If you’re interested in participating, you can find out more about the research and complete the survey here.
We’re publishing a guest post today by Dr. Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist with over 30 years’ experience working for the NHS. He sets out all the reasons why mask mandates shouldn’t be reimposed and urges people to join the Smile Free Campaign, which advocates against masking.
On the July 19th 2021, England removed almost all its legal mandates that required healthy people to wear face coverings in community settings. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, opted to retain their mask mandates, as did London on its public transport system. Ominously, the Government’s Covid strategy for this winter includes the prospect of a ‘Plan B’ that could see the return of compulsory face masks in indoor settings in England. After a few months of bare-faced normality, how will the general public react to future directives to muzzle up?
Smile Free – a campaign group seeking the permanent removal of all mask mandates – urges each person to consider the responses to the following six questions before deciding whether to hide your face again.
Q1. Do masks help reduce viral spread?
Although some studies claim otherwise, the real-world evidence strongly suggests that masking the healthy does not significantly reduce the spread of respiratory viruses for neither the wearer nor others. Key reasons for this lack of efficacy are likely to include the improper use and storage of masks in the real world and the growing recognition that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) is spread via microscopic aerosol particles that are far too small to be kept at bay by face coverings.
Q2. Will wearing a mask cause me any physical harm?
If worn only for short periods, significant physical harms from wearing a mask are unlikely. However, there is evidence that long term use can lead to a number of negative consequences, including: headaches, skin irritation, fatigue and dehydration, reduced heart and lung efficiency and eye irritation. In addition, face coverings may put elderly people at more risk of injury from falls.
Q3. Do masks cause any social or psychological harms?
The social and psychological consequences of hiding our faces from other people are profound. Humans are social animals. We need to interact with others and communicate to sustain our wellbeing. Face coverings are dehumanising, inhibiting all forms of emotional expression and social interaction. Individuality minimised, identity hidden, the masked population appear broadly the same as they trudge along in their social vacuums. The impact of a masked population on children is even more problematic, denying them access to facial expressions that are so crucial for their emotional development.
Q4. Will wearing a mask help to reassure others who are anxious?
Most definitely not. Acting as a crude, highly visible reminder that danger is all around, face coverings are fueling widespread anxiety. Fear is underpinned by a perception of threat and being masked is a blatant indicator that we are all bio-hazards. Furthermore, continuing to wear masks while we gradually try to return to normality will act to keep fear going, as the wearer may attribute their survival to the mask rather than conclude that it is now safe to return to everyday activities. To recommend face coverings as a source of reassurance is akin to insisting people wear a garlic clove around their necks to reduce their fear of vampires.
Q5. Under the law, do I have a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a mask?
In general terms, if wearing a mask is likely to cause you ‘severe distress’, or put you ‘at risk of harm or injury’, you are legally exempt. Mental health problems (such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia) and physical health problems (such as asthma and other respiratory difficulties) are sufficient and lawful reasons not to wear a face covering. Furthermore, you are not obliged to disclose your specific reason for exemption to anybody other than an official enforcement officer (usually a police officer); any other person who challenges you about not wearing a face covering is likely to be acting unlawfully and thereby risking prosecution. Indeed, a service provider has been fined £7000 under the Discrimination Disability Act for denying access to a woman without a mask.
Q6. Do I risk being fined if I don’t wear a mask?
While it is possible that a fine could be imposed for not complying with a mask mandate, such an event seems rare. Thus, in the four-month period June-to-September 2020, only 89 fines were issued (61 on public transport, 28 in retail settings) across the whole of England and Wales. Furthermore, if you are unfortunate enough to receive a fine and decide to contest it in Court, it is highly likely you will succeed; according to figures produced by the Crown Prosecution Service, all charges under the Coronavirus Act have either been withdrawn in Court or quashed after innocent people were wrongfully indicted.
In conclusion, mandating masks for healthy people in their communities is irrational, counterproductive, unethical and ultimately unenforceable. To help continue the fight against legal requirements to wear face coverings, please consider joining our Smile Free campaign.
Schools will not reintroduce the policy of ‘bubbles’ to protect pupils against coronavirus, Nadhim Zahawi says, but he hasn’t ruled out a return of face masks. The Telegraph has more.
He said he had contingency plans to keep schools open, but told Sky News: “I don’t want to return to bubbles because actually, you saw the fall off in attendance which really does harm mental wellbeing, mental health of children.”
Mr Zahawi did not, however, rule out the return of the wearing of masks in the classroom in England.
He said: “We’ve got a contingency plan, as you would expect me to do… it contains lots of contingencies, including masks, absolutely.”
The bubble system, which led to whole year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days because one of their classmates tested positive, was scrapped by the Government after more than one million pupils were kept off school in July.
The controversial approach was stopped on July 19th, as Boris Johnson announced that the “obvious way forward” was testing pupils rather than sending large numbers of children home to self-isolate. …
The mandatory wearing of face coverings in schools and colleges was scrapped in May, but Government guidance says that directors of public health could advise schools to reintroduce them if cases spike.
Worth reading in full.
A Daily Sceptic reader has just returned from a trip to Spain and Italy and has sent us this guest post. Depressing reading.
One of the lovelier benefits to travel is the perspective it lends to life at home. Usually, this revolves around how the British sky and food is more dull than we realise, but after two recent trips to Spain and Italy one would be forgiven for thinking that Blighty is a post-Covid, liberal, free-thinking nirvana.
Both countries in question reported big Covid numbers – broadly in line with ours. Now both have similar vaccination levels and both are reporting broadly similar case daily numbers too. Their supine adoption of the ‘passport’ has been relatively well documented but but to walk the streets or beaches in either is to see a population cowed by face mask legislation. Masks are obligatory more or less everywhere indoors but it is the manner of their adoption which makes it all the more depressing.
Two nationalities (which one might playfully suggest are known for their selective application of some rules) have taken to the wearing of masks with quiet supplication. When viewed with the rapid dropping of masks we are enjoying at home this makes for a most depressing spectacle.
The farcical insistence that a face mask is worn when walking from a beach bed to a bar is barely credible yet the adherence is almost total. Equally, to see a solitary, masked parking attendant standing in a country lane is absurd as it is worrying.
The beautiful and ancient Fallas of Valancia this year were reconvened after the pandemic, but despite taking place in deserted streets the participants were still required to wear masks alongside their fabulous costumes.
Of course, there is the human element, our children grumbled at wearing a mask – it was uncomfortable, new for them and scary – and were barely challenged when they did not. But the fact remains that every other child was happily going about with a mini-mask strapped to their face.
One wonders if this can be traced back to their lockdowns. Neither country closed schools to any great extent but children were required to wear masks at school. Equally, neither had such a wholesale adoption of home-working as here and while offices opened earlier than in the U.K., many people wore masks at their desks and were often banned from using meeting rooms, asked instead to use virtual conferencing with their colleagues a few yards away.
I cannot comment on the mask hesitancy or counter-arguments that have been made – of which I am sure there have been many, but writing this in a charming pizzeria in Milan I note that I was reminded to wear my mask by two people upon arrival and had my temperature taken to walk the 10 paces from the door to the terrace – whereupon my mask is not required.
If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny.
A reader has got in touch to tell us about his recent experience at Butlin’s. It was ruined by the company’s insistence that all members of staff, including the Redcoats, wear masks at all times.
As the summer holiday season draws to a close, I thought it was worth sharing my experience at Butlin’s – the classic U.K. resort. Unfortunately, it was anything but the post-Step 4 ‘freedom experience’ we expected.
I visited Butlin’s last year in August 2020 and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. Here was a business clearly struggling to squeeze whatever it could out of the ludicrous Government-mandated situation. Shows were outside and we were restricted to tables only – you’d see more dancing in present day Afghanistan. So I was keen to enjoy a fully unrestricted experience when we returned in 2021. But I was wrong.
Butlin’s has hit a new Low-de-Low and has mandated facemasks for all staff – seemingly forever. By all staff, I mean all staff – including Redcoats. For those unfamiliar with the holiday camp experience, the Redcoats are the entertainment team. Multi-talented, relentlessly joyous and an intrinsic part of the Butlin’s experience. Except in 2021 they wear grey rags across their faces – the mask has become an official part of the uniform. So there are no smiles, no laughter and little communication.
Butlin’s has just opened ‘Studio 36’ at their Bognor Regis resort. A huge aircraft-hangar sized entertainment space with a ceiling so high you could stack double-decker buses in it. What’s more, the building has more air conditioning units than a Dubai hotel – I counted over 20 inverters lining the walls. It’s better ventilated than the beach. Studio 36 is a massive and impressive area. But here’s the punch line: the loony mask edict leads to a ludicrous situation whereby you can have 1000 unmasked guests dancing, singing and laughing; a six-piece band playing and…wait for it…two Redcoats either side of the band swaying from side to side – all with masks on! What possible ‘safety’ is this? How does forcing two people (the key entertainers) to wear masks, ‘protect’ a room of over a thousand? It is a ridiculous scenario. I feel genuinely sorry for the Redcoats who are forced to facelessly bob along to the music like castrated fluffers.
Robert Dingwall, a Professor at Nottingham Trent University and a leading sociologist, has written an excellent piece for Social Science Space criticising the imposition of mask mandates, given the paucity of evidence that masks interrupt transmission and the lack of any robust evaluation of the harms masks cause.
First, Professor Dingwall looks at the two main sources of evidence purporting to show that masks are effective.
One is studies at various scales of the impact of mask mandates on reported infection rates. These may compare cities, states, provinces or entire nations using time series data to look for inflections of rates that may be attributable to the mandates. A great deal of mathematical ingenuity has been expended in trying to control for the numerous confounders from biases in reporting, differences in diagnosis, leads and lags in public behaviour in response to the mandates, seasonal fluctuations, mobility – the list is almost endless. By the time these manipulations are complete, though, it is very difficult to conclude that there is any clear and obvious effect. Infection rates do not seem to vary much between comparable communities regardless of the NPIs that have been introduced. I have yet to see a study that identifies a clear and unequivocal benefit from a mask mandate in the form of an obvious inflection point attributable to the intervention. For all the reasons cited, this would be hard to find so perhaps we should not treat its absence as conclusive proof of a lack of benefit so much as something that is consistent with the RCT evidence that any benefit is likely to be minimal.
The other main source of evidence is laboratory studies of the properties of masks using techniques from physics and engineering. Some studies treat masks as a straightforward air filtration experiment. These are well-controlled and reproducible, but bear little resemblance to real-world conditions. The more sophisticated studies use mannikins to create a jet of air carrying inert particles into a controlled space, mimicking human exhalation. Masks can then be used to interrupt the air flow. The resulting measurements are the basis for computational models that provide more general descriptions of the spread of particles, which may be used to create video simulations. These studies are often elegant but suffer familiar problems in generalising to real-world environments. Within reason, the experimenter can manipulate the average velocity of the jet, the size of particles and the permeability of the mask in ways that aim to mimic breathing at different rates, coughing or sneezing. To get reliable measurements, including video or photographic evidence of the dispersion of the particles, the simulated exhalations must enter still air. Air, however, is never still in the real world. In any space there are thermal currents that are moving air around and dispersing exhalations in ways that are not captured, and probably cannot be captured, by the experimenter in a physically meaningful way. The efficacy of masks is also sensitive to the choice of particle size. If the experimenter favours droplets, larger particles, masks capture these quite well – but they also fall quickly to the ground and are unlikely to be inhaled by anyone at a normal social distance. If the experimenter favours aerosols, smaller particles, these are likely to pass through or around cloth masks, whose pore size is typically significantly larger than the aerosol particles. In which case the masks may filter a small proportion of the particles but probably let most through or around the edges. Where higher quality masks have been mandated, the community evidence runs into the same problems as before.
We’re publishing a guest piece today by Charlotte Niemiec, a freelance journalist. In an impressive tour d’horizon, she highlights the Government’s endless stream of contradictory and nonsensical advice, from face masks to school closures. Here is an extract:
Being generous, we could blame an incompetent Government blindsided by a ‘pandemic’ that hit just as it was popping the cork on finally ‘getting Brexit done’. But the actions it took went beyond naïvety and entered the realms of the Kafka-esque nonsensical. The last 18 months have been those of U-turns and false predictions followed by denials; hirings and firings of ‘experts’ paid to find or fabricate the evidence to fit the theory; promises to follow ‘the science’, to go by ‘data not dates’ – and then do the opposite. The mainstream media has refused to ask tough questions, social platforms have censored anything that doesn’t fit the fear narrative, scientists and medics and employees across the spectrum have lost their jobs and reputations for daring to speak out or refuse injection. The nurses on the ‘front line’ who worked around the clock last year without a vaccine will now be fired if they choose not to have one. This is their reward. The elites have flourished while the proles festered.
Worth reading in full.
The Prime Minister has signed off plans to end the legal requirement to wear masks as of July 19th, according to the Telegraph, saying that the link between COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations has been broken.
Mr Johnson is expected to lay out a blueprint for how England will live with the virus, as ministers prepare to replace swathes of legal restrictions with a call for “common sense” and “personal responsibility”.
Announcing the changes this week, an increasingly bullish Mr Johnson is expected to cite recent data and modelling to declare that, while infection rates will rise as restrictions are eased, the successful roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines means that the numbers of hospitalisations and deaths are no longer rising at the same scale as before.
The latest data are believed to have given the Prime Minister the confidence that the legal requirement to wear face masks is among measures that can be lifted without the risk of the NHS coming under “unsustainable pressure”.
If true, this is a welcome move from the Prime Minister, who continues to come under pressure from various quarters to keep restrictions in place.
Exactly what life will look like after July 19th, and what guidance will remain in place that becomes essentially mandatory once lawyers and insurers get involved, remains to be seen. There are also questions about the future of international travel, which is sliding fast towards a system of privileges for the elite and preferential treatment for the vaccinated with no clear end point in sight. Then there is the uncertainty of what may happen come autumn and winter now that lockdowns have been established as an acceptable tool of infection control and healthcare management.
But for now it seems that things are finally moving in the right direction, with a rare show of spine from the once outspoken libertarian in Number 10. Let’s hope it stays that way.
We’re publishing today a new piece by Dr Gary Sidley, a retired Consultant Clinical Psychologist and member of HART, to coincide with the launch of the ‘Smile Free’ campaign that he and colleagues have started to campaign for the repeal of mask mandates in the U.K.
Dr Sidley’s core argument is: “Never mind that masks don’t work, masking the healthy harms us all socially and psychologically: all mandates must end on June 21st.”
Here’s the opening:
The Government requirement for healthy people to wear a face covering in a range of indoor community settings, purportedly to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has arguably been the most insidious of all the coronavirus restrictions.
Anyone reluctant to wear a face covering risks being challenged by others: “It’s only a mask”; “It’s no big deal”; “If it prevents just one infection, it’s worth it”. These comments are based on the premise that healthy people have nothing to lose from donning a mask when moving around their communities, but they fail to recognise an important truth: Masking the healthy is not, and has never been, a benign intervention.
Anyone remotely sceptical may already know that, prior to June 2020, public health organisations and their experts did not endorse masking healthy people in the community as a means of reducing viral transmission and that, in the real world, mask mandates or the lack thereof appear to have made no discernible difference to the spread of coronavirus.
Famously, the decision of Texas to ditch their mask mandates was called “Neanderthal thinking” by President Biden – only for the Lone Star State to witness declining cases ever since.
We’re publishing an original article today by two social scientists – Professor Donald S. Siegel and Professor Robert M. Sauer – about the disgraceful behaviour of Britain’s teaching unions over the past 15 months. They have colluded with officials to not only close schools, but keep them closed for as long as possible and, once they reopened, to keep mask mandates in place. At all times they have acted in the interests of their dues-paying members rather than the children those members are supposed to be teaching. Here is an extract:
What motivates local and national politicians to collude with public sector unions to prolong lockdowns and continue the confinement and deformity of the nation’s children? First, trade unions constitute major voting blocs. Second, it is important that politicians keep their trade union friends for political cover. Remember that expert committees, most notably SAGE, have misled the government with their pseudo-scientific ‘non-pharmaceutical interventions’, so elected officials are now presiding over the single greatest government failure of all time.
Not only is SAGE a primary cause for COVID-19 policy travesty, credit must also be given to the trade unions for exerting undue influence on politicians charged with deciding how and when to ‘reopen’ schools. Recall that when our state-run Covid religion was established in March 2020, a totalitarian/Orwellian taxonomy of “essential” and “nonessential” workers and industries was developed. Teachers were deemed “essential” workers. Unlike many “nonessential” workers, teachers received full pay during quarantines and lockdowns, with virtually no job losses in the sector, while children remained at home to learn online, often with inferior Internet connections and overwhelmed parents to supervise them.
Unlike almost all other “essential” workers, most teachers have not physically reported to work since March 2020. Also, in some cases, teachers were vaccinated before many others in their age groups. The forced masking of students as young as four for six hours a day is designed to protect teachers, not students.
Worth reading in full.