Masks

Mask Requirement for Healthcare Workers to Be Dropped From Monday

The requirement for healthcare workers to wear face masks in clinical settings is to be dropped by NHS trusts from Monday, the Daily Sceptic has learned.

A source within the health service said he learned of this decision from hospital managers and independently from another contact in the service.

At this stage it is unclear whether all trusts will make this change at the same time, but it does appear to be a result of a change of policy higher up.

This further step back to pre-Covid normality should mean masks for patients will also end, either at the same time or shortly afterwards.

Covid in Australia – a Doctor’s Perspective

There follows a guest post by a doctor in Australia, who prefers to remain anonymous, about his experience of the pandemic Down Under.

I entered General Practice 34 years ago in rural New South Wales. Needless to say, the changes since then have been immense.

In 1988, most GP’s admitted and cared for patients in hospitals, did regular house calls, delivered babies, performed surgery and practiced anaesthetics. Now, other than in remote rural locations, very few provide any of these services. As many patients inform me, most GPs seem to want to only look at their computers, order tests, prescribe drugs, give immunisations and refer to the specialists.

Twenty years ago, I underwent specialist training in Sports and Exercise Medicine, and now work purely in that area. I remain, however, registered as a General Practitioner. The Australian health system has plenty of similarities with the British system, though has a number of features which differentiate the two. In Australia, the vast majority of GPs work in the private system, working as contractors to health centres, being employed by private practices, running practices themselves, or in a dwindling number of cases working as solo GPs. Very few work as employees of the public sector or NGOs.

Each state has a Health Department, which can impose different regulations on GPs, such as Covid vaccination requirements, and runs the public hospitals in that state; the Federal Government also has a Health Department which oversees the registration of doctors, pharmaceutical benefits scheme and health budgets. Registration is governed by the Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency (AHPRA) via the Medical Boards. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) controls drug and device availability. There are both Federal and State Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) dictating policy settings. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is a lobby group representing less than 15% of doctors, but has political sway. Continuing education and training is provided by the Colleges – in the case of General Practice, this is both the Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACCRM).

Early on after the advent of the Covid vaccination program, the TGA banned prescription of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for Covid infections, partly as they were seen as possible threats to vaccine uptake. Recently, the prescription of hydroxychloroquine for Covid infections again became legal, though only in Queensland.

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”.

Mask Mandate Dropped for Air Travel in Europe

Face masks will no longer be mandatory in airports and on flights in Europe from May 16th amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions in European countries. MailOnline has more.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), would mark “a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel” for passengers and crews.

The agencies said the levels of vaccination, naturally acquired immunity and the lifting of Covid restrictions in many European countries were behind the decision to lift the mandatory mask recommendation, which has been in place since 2020.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” the EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said.

Italy, France, Bulgaria and other European countries have been relaxing or ending many or all of their measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Slowly but surely… Though will masks return in winter? Some American cities have already brought back their mask mandate.

And when will America let the unvaccinated back in and drop its tourism-killing testing requirements?

Worth reading in full.

Why Healthcare Settings Should Drop Their Mask Requirements

Dr. Gary Sidley, a former NHS Consultant Psychologist and co-founder of Smile Free, has a piece in the Critic today criticising the persistence of widespread masking in healthcare settings and summarising the evidence for why masks are a bad idea.

Over recent weeks there has been a marked reduction in the number of people wearing face coverings in retail settings, hospitality venues and on public transport. Given the ineffectiveness of masks in reducing viral transmission, together with the multiple harms associated with them, this transition is both rational and welcome. Paradoxically, the prominent exceptions to this return to a mask-free society are NHS facilities and venues allied to health. Widespread masking of both staff and patrons persists in all hospitals, health centres and GP practices, and most dentists, opticians and pharmacies.

A sphere of society where one might reasonably expect a reliance upon evidence-based practice, is now the outlier in persisting with the unscientific and pervasively damaging mass-masking phenomenon. More troublingly, healthcare’s insistence that staff and visitors continue to wear masks constitutes additional risks to the wellbeing of the people who use these services. Some of the general harms of face coverings are likely to be particularly problematic in these settings, including:

Impaired communication

Clear communication is a central requirement for effective healthcare. By muffling speech and hiding non-verbal signals, masks significantly impede the efficiency of information sharing, potentially impairing the professional’s understanding of the clinical problem and the patient’s understanding of the recommended therapeutic intervention. Those with hearing impairment (estimated to be about one-in-six of the UK population), who often rely on lip-reading, will suffer the most. Given that the elderly population are frequent users of health services, those impacted by this mask-induced communication problem will be even higher in these settings. And the consequences of muffled speech in hospitals can sometimes be catastrophic.

Increased risk of falls in the elderly

By blocking parts of the lower peripheral visual field, and causing spectacles to steam up, masks will increase the risk of falls in older people with ongoing mobility difficulties. Injuries, such as fractured femurs, are more prevalent in the elderly. Expecting face coverings from this demographic, the most regular visitors to healthcare facilities, can only exacerbate the risk.

Aggravation of respiratory problems

For patients with existing respiratory problems, the requirement to cover their airways with cloth or plastic will often inflict additional distress. Masks can make breathing more difficult, a problem likely to be more apparent after long periods of wear, such as those routinely experienced in hospital Accident and Emergency departments. Furthermore, face coverings can inflate the risk of acquiring pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. One study found for example that as little as four hours of wearing a cloth or plastic mask increased vulnerability to bacterial infection. There are also the largely unknown risks from the inhalation of micro-plastics and the exposure to contaminants in the textiles.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Double-masking offers people no more protection than single-masking and may increase their risk of becoming infected, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University and Florida State University. MailOnline has more.

The Foegen Effect: Why Face Masks Increase the Death Rate of COVID-19

There follows a guest post by Dr. Zacharias Fögen, whose new (peer-reviewed) paper in Medicine describes how face masks increase the death rate of COVID-19.

It took a long time, but my study on masks has finally appeared in the prestigious journal Medicine. What is my study about?

It is about whether masks decrease case fatality from COVID-19 (because less viral material is transmitted) or increase it. Increase sounds illogical? Ask yourself if you would wear the mask of a Covid patient. You probably wouldn’t, otherwise you could become infected by inhaling the viruses he or she breathed into the mask.

My study, based on the U.S. state of Kansas, provides the answer: case mortality was significantly lower in counties without mandatory masks. Mandatory masking increased case mortality there by 85%. Even after factoring in the reduced number of cases due to masks, the numbers still remain 52% higher. Over 95% of this effect can only be attributed to COVID-19, so it is not CO2, bacteria or fungi under the mask.

Mask Study Finds No Impact on Covid Infections From Mask-Wearing and an INCREASE in Deaths

Mask-wearing had no discernible impact on the spread of COVID-19 in Europe during winter 2020-21 and may actually have increased mortality, a study has found.

The peer-reviewed study by Professor Beny Spira from the Department of Microbiology at the University of São Paulo, published in the journal Cureus, looked at the correlation between the rate of mask-wearing in the population and the number of reported infections and deaths from October 2020 to March 2021 in 35 European countries. All European countries, including Western and Eastern Europe, with more than one million inhabitants were included, encompassing a total of 602 million people. All the countries experienced a peak of COVID-19 infections during the six months – the winter 2020-21 wave.

The results are shown in the graphs above, where a positive correlation can be seen in the case of both infections and deaths, i.e., greater mask-wearing went hand-in-hand with more infections and deaths, the opposite of the intended effect of masks. In the case of reported infections the correlation was not statistically significant, so may have been by chance. In the case of deaths it was statistically significant, particularly in Western Europe, opening up the possibility that wearing masks actually made things worse.

The French are Rebelling Against Petty Covid Mask Rules

Daily Sceptic reader Chris Bullick has travelled to France this week and found a population moving on from the petty pandemic rules whether their Government wants them to or not.

Well, that much agonised over third jab was a waste of time. St. Pancras railway station was a complete zoo. The French border official scanned my passport in the usual insouciant way and waved me through. The other three members of our party did however have their documents scrutinised. I was less than delighted when they suggested that they hadn’t bothered as I “just looked way too old to be unvaccinated”.

They certainly get you in the mood at St. Pancras. With a train for Paris and one for Amsterdam both leaving at six on a Friday evening, the place was slammed. There was a 200 metre queue for the Eurostar down the station concourse. This had a ‘mask checkpoint’ 100 metres in, where Eurostar staff were commanding their passengers to don masks. Which of course everyone sheepishly did – except for me. I was having none of it. “Tell me it’s a legal requirement,” I said, as all the other unmasked passengers heading elsewhere rushed past. “It’s a Eurostar requirement,” they repeated. “But not a legal requirement,” I stated. “So I shan‘t be wearing one,” and walked on unmolested.

However, the passenger behind me made a mis-step. “I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask,” he shamefully confessed. They pounced. Never apologise, never explain. Sent packing off to the shops to buy one, he returned clutching one of those Chinese paper masks currently polluting every major river in the world and costing about one pence to manufacture. To his girlfriend: “It was the last one and cost me £5.” Why do people put up with this utter charade still? If only half of them challenged it they would stop it.

New Spanish Study Finds That Masking in Schools Does Nothing

Before ‘The Science’ flipped in the spring of 2020, the consensus among Western epidemiologists was that community masking doesn’t affect the spread of respiratory pathogens like influenza. As Jonathan Van Tam said on April 3rd 2020, “there is no evidence” to support the general wearing of face masks.

Although masks might block large droplets in close-contact settings like hospitals, and thereby slightly lower the risk of transmission, they can’t block airborne particles – which simply go through/around them, and then remain aloft for minutes or even hours.

As a result, large indoor setting like supermarkets, transit stations or classrooms soon fill up with airborne particles – even if everyone’s wearing a mask.

A new Spanish study strongly supports the pre-Covid conventional wisdom that masks don’t stop transmission of respiratory pathogens. The study uses quite a powerful design, which makes its results all the more convincing.

Ermengol Coma and colleagues analysed data on a large cohort of Spanish children aged three to eleven, whom they followed for the first term of the school year from September to December of 2021. During this period, there was a mask mandate in place for children in primary school (aged six and up) but not for those in pre-school (aged three to five).

Hence the researchers compared outcomes between children aged five (who were not subject to the mandate) and those aged six (who were subject to the mandate).

SAGE Scientist Makes the Wrong Inference on Masks

A few weeks ago, the Guardian published an article in which various ‘experts’ revealed what they got wrong during the pandemic. Anyone hoping to read ‘lockdown – I was wrong on lockdown’ will be disappointed, although Professor Allyson Pollock of Newcastle University did admit she should have spoken out against school closures.

Our old friend Neil Ferguson was humble enough to list three things he got wrong, although none of them, strangely, makes any reference to Sweden. Recall that Ferguson’s team forecast up to 90,000 deaths in Sweden without mitigation. Yet two years later, the official count stands at only 16,000.

You might assume this would have led Ferguson to revise his beliefs concerning the efficacy of lockdown. After all, his model made a clear prediction concerning, and that prediction simply failed to materialise. Alas, no. All three of his self-confessed errors concern relatively minor details of epidemiological modelling.

Another familiar name among the Guardian’s line up is Devi Sridhar – chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Yet once again, her big admission suggests no real updating of beliefs on her part.

Sridhar previously advocated ‘Zero Covid’ – something that was never tenable in a large, dense, highly connected country like the U.K. But the wrongness of her ‘Zero Covid’ stance isn’t what she wants to own up to.

Instead, Sridhar feels that she overestimated how willing Britons would be to comply with Korea-style contact tracing, which involved tracking people’s movements via GPS. She presumably believes that contract tracing is what made the difference in Korea, even though Japan achieved the same outcomes by doing nothing.

But put Ferguson and Sridhar to one side. The most egregious paragraph in the article is the one under Professor Susan Michie’s name. Here’s what she had to say:

Early on, my reading was that the evidence on the effectiveness of face masks in community settings was equivocal. The emphasis on droplet transmission raised a concern that infected people may touch their face masks and then touch surfaces, thus providing a transmission route … When evidence showed that the major route for transmission was via aerosol rather than droplet, the case for masks became hugely stronger.

I don’t know about you, but I’d say Michie has it entirely backwards. If the major route for transmission was via droplets, then masking would make sense. After all, masks can actually stop droplets. What they can’t stop is tiny airborne particles, which simply go through or around them. Here’s what Fauci said in a leaked email from February of 2020:

The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.

So Michie drew precisely the wrong inference. When it became clear that Covid spreads via aerosols rather than droplets, the case for masks became hugely weaker.

While getting scientists to reflect on their mistakes is a useful exercise, not all of those to whom the Guardian spoke have really grappled with what went wrong. We can debate exactly how much effect masks and lockdowns have, but it’s clearly less – a lot less – than we were led to believe. Will the ‘experts’ ever admit this?