Face mask facts

It’s fair to say that Boris and his circus, I mean government, no, I mean circus, haven’t done a great job in preventing the rampant spread of COVID-19. Late to react to warnings and precedents, late to initiate any meaningful policies, supporting the Lex Luthor of government, Dominic Cummings, when he ignored all guidelines he helped implement and did exactly as he pleased, the list goes on. But one thing they appear to have got right, one thing they are in agreement with the majority of the world about, is insisting we wear face masks.

Face masks are nothing new

I watched an episode of Casualty in the 80s, so I know. We’ve all seen surgeons wear masks when they walk into theatre and say “stat!” lots. We’ve seen doctors wear masks when dealing with a patient with something suspected of being contagious. It strikes me that these intelligent, medically-trained men and women probably know what they’re talking about with regards disease and correspondingly appropriate apparel. So, why would they make themselves wear these masks, which are less comfortable than not wearing a mask, if they were not necessary?

They are happy to wear these masks while taking on some of the most intricate, delicate, life-saving operations, because they know of the benefits: much the same as not starting a new operation with the same scalpel from the last, having not washed it, or dispensing with the scalpel all together and using a garden trowel plucked straight from the flower bed – it stops foreign antibodies entering the patient’s system.

It is logical to assume, therefore, that this simple addition to our daily outfit should be employed to help stop the spread of this deadly pandemic that the world is currently battling. What’s more, in case logic isn’t your thing, there have been numerous studies to show the effectiveness of wearing a face mask in limiting the spread of the disease.

Are cloth face masks effective against Covid-19?

For example, a study carried out at Oxford University conclusively demonstrated that cloth face coverings, even those made at home using appropriate material, are effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. Director of the university’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Studies, and author of the report, Professor Melinda Mills, explains, “The evidence is clear that people should wear masks to reduce virus transmission and protect themselves.”

wearing a face mask against covid 19wearing a face mask against covid 19
A cartoon to make it less scary

Reviewing the evidence of the efficacy of wearing a face mask for the peer-reviewed journal PNAS (sounds funnier than is: it stands for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), a team of eminent scientists led by Dr Jeremy Howard concluded that “The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts.” They recommended that public officials and governments should look to implement the widespread use of face masks in public.

There are many more studies that also reach the same irrefutable conclusion, that face masks are a simple and effective weapon in stopping the spread of this disease. And these findings are further supported by the scientific world’s better understanding of how the disease is transmitted, compared to the relative guessing game that they were forced into playing at the beginning of the outbreak. With the benefit of six months of research, it is now understood that, due to the relatively fragile nature of the virus, contraction from touching an infected surface is less of a danger than first thought, and a far less likely path of infection than droplets in the air, which is now recognised as the primary route. In other words, when someone expels air by sneezing, coughing, talking, singing, or simply breathing, the tiny droplets of saliva (ranging from discernible spittle to an imperceptible mist) that are being emitted are the most likely source of transmission, even from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

Of course, there is a simple way of limiting the possibility of both inhaling someone else’s virus-laden droplets, or spreading your own to other people. It doesn’t require much sacrifice, doesn’t cost much, is no burden whatsoever, and already comes in an infinite range of styles to suit any fashionista. You guessed it, a small strip of material that we should wear over our noses and mouths in certain public situations such as in shops or on the train. That doesn’t seem much does it, as a small part we can play to help stem this fatal disease? Especially when you compare it to the sacrifices that so many healthcare professionals and key workers are making for the rest of us.

Why do so many people seem to be against face masks?

So, why are so many people against doing this one small thing to help? Why, when we see pictures of doctors and nurses having to wear full PPE kit for hours on end, finishing long, gruelling shifts, exhausted and knowing they’re coming back tomorrow to do it all again, do some people still think they’re being hard done by, by being asked to occasionally wear a small square of cloth? Why, when those same NHS staff risk their lives, many even making the ultimate sacrifice, to try and defeat this disease, do they think it’s okay to spit the dummy about briefly putting a mask on? Is it selfishness, or are they simply wanting to be seen as being part of an anti-establishment movement, as if it’s some kind of rebellious badge of honour?

Of course, it doesn’t help when people of some influence jump on the bandwagon and start spouting nonsensical anti-mask mantras. For example, high flying bozo, Noel Gallagher, who issued a full-of-swear-words-‘cos-I’m-a-tough-guy proclamation on the matter, making it clear he wasn’t going to help in any way to curb the pandemic.

I’ve just double checked and can confirm that Mr Gallagher is NOT a scientist. He’s actually just an out of the limelight singer, perhaps desperate for some attention. He’s a man who has achieved a large degree of success which seems to automatically bestow upon him an arrogance which makes him believe he understands the science better than qualified, intelligent specialists. And surely his arrogance and past successes validate his scientific conclusions that “it’s a piss-take,” and “they’re pointless.”

He argues that “there’s too many fucking liberties being taken away from us now.” And, whilst his syntax is unforgiveable, I would agree with that point to an extent. However, this isn’t a case of removing a liberty. In case he hadn’t realised, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that the whole world is trying to eradicate before millions more people die. Is it so much to ask for him, and others like him, to do their bit and wear a thin strip of material to help? How is assisting with the global effort to save lives losing a liberty? Is not, in fact, being a decent human being?

Face Mask factsFace Mask facts
The offending items – just look at them, lying there viciously, waiting…

His argument is that “if I get the virus it’s on me, it’s not on anyone else.” That’s the kind of contrarian nonsense a teenager would declaim to their parents whilst thinking “look at me, I’m arguing about grownup stuff, please let me stay up late tonight.” Yes, you might get it. But do you think you live in a self-contained bubble? Or do you think there might just possibly be a chance that you would see another human being whilst you had it, even before you knew you had it? And therefore, it is not just on you. It is also on the people you interact with, and in turn, the people they interact with, and in turn- you know, I really didn’t think this needed explaining to a man in his fifties. This is how viruses spread – it is the most easily comprehensible aspect of this whole crisis! How can you not understand that??!

Another aging musician who, in his heyday, liked to show how whacky he was by walking round the stage on Top of the Pops throwing eggs (wow, you’re so wild, man, you blow my mind!), Stone Roses frontman, Ian Brown, has also declared wearing a facemask not only as unnecessary but as propaganda. Labelled a conspiracy theorist for his views, he responded that that term was created “by the lame stream media [ok, sweet pun, I’ll give him that one] to discredit those who can smell and see through the government/media lies and propaganda.” What on earth do you think you can smell back there?! What are you hoping the government are trying to achieve by this? Are you suggesting they’ve secretly bought up all the face mask producing companies and now have the monopoly on bits of cloth and elastic and are just trying to make a fast buck? It’s ludicrous. Pipe down and go and lob some eggs or juggle some Edam, or whatever you think makes you look freethinking and kooky – wooo, flying dairy goods, rock and roooollll!!

When you’re in a position of influence, and your fans follow everything you do or say, it makes the bullshit you surmonize not just cavalier but dangerously irresponsible. Because of something you say, someone might act in the way you suggest which, in this case, could quite literally be a case of life or death. I’m sure deep down, beneath the puffed-out chests and stylised bravado, neither Ian Brown or Noel Gallagher (or Jim Corr… me neither) actually want to kill their fans (especially Corr, I can’t imagine he has enough to waste any). So please, listen to their songs (maybe not The Corrs’), listen to their hilarious fraternal spats, but whatever you do, don’t listen to their anti-mask nonsense, it’s just drivel.

If it’s a musician you want to listen to, why not listen to one who actually knows what she’s talking about? Australian folktronica star, Gordi, is not only a successful singer-songwriter, she’s also a qualified doctor. Not only that, but after the coronavirus kyboshed her US tour with Bon Iver, this phenomenal woman, like most Aussies, was ready to help her country, and began practicing again, working in hospitals in the Australian state of Victoria. The Something Like This singer suggests it’s “incredibly selfish” not to wear a mask, and highlights that it “is not asking you to do a great deal.” Precisely.

There will always be people who buck against the system. And, of course, this is a good thing. It produces healthy debate, great music and art, inspirational sub-cultures, and Spitting Image. But just because we can rail against the establishment, against universally accepted protocol, it doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes, just occasionally, rulings are made by those in charge that are in the best interests of everyone. And when that is so patently clear, and when it requires so little effort on our part, has such a small impact on our daily lives, and could potentially have such huge benefits in helping the world get back to normal, why do some people insist on kicking up such a stink? You’re not teenagers any more, and the government aren’t your overbearing parents.

It’s time to act like adults, wear a mask, stop your whining, and help save lives.

NEWS – BN1 Magazine