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If you say you’re mask-exempt, you are!


FIRST there were the so-called covidiots, those independently thinking individuals who refused to believe that we were in the midst of the most dangerous pandemic in history and would have to cower in fear for the rest of our lives.

Now it seems we have the ‘maskidiots’, brave souls who refuse to obey the mandate re-imposed on the nation on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

Leading the charge is Desmond Swayne, the Tory MP for New Forest West, who in October said that the face-covering obsession could be dangerous to mental health ‘because masks cover friendly facial expressions’.

Now he has gone further. He told Julia Hartley-Brewer on TalkRadio that he refused to wear a mask because of his ‘genetic predisposition to liberty’. For this, he has won an award for ‘the most idiotic excuse for not wearing a mask’.  

Let me say here that I am with Sir Desmond, one of the few politicians who is talking any sense about mask-wearing. I too have refused to wear a mask since July, when the mandate was lifted and now that it has come down again, I am still refusing to cover my face.

Why? I too believe that mental health can be seriously impaired by never seeing a human face and that if the entire nation continues to wear a mask we will see an epidemic, not of Covid, but of severe mental illness. Already, formerly cheerful friends are telling me that they are feeling depressed as never before. 

Apart from that, I doubt that mask-wearing makes the slightest bit of difference to any infection going round. So many friends and colleagues who have obediently masked up everywhere they go have tested positive for Covid and come down with serious coughs and colds, whereas I, who have taken no notice of any of the restrictions, remain perfectly well. Mind, I am told I am made of stainless steel, which may be true.

I know in my bones that wearing a mask, especially when it’s a dirty piece of cloth, offers no protection and may even predispose you to illness. Cloth masks in particular are pretty much worse than useless, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 and updated to take in coronavirus advice. Such improvised masks, the study says, should not be regarded as PPE as they can actually predispose to infection. 

And would you believe it, you can now get woollen balaclavas that have a zip for covering the face, thus turning them into a mask. They may be ideal for robbing banks (except that there are no banks open nowadays to rob) but they are pointless as defences against infection.

Prolonged mask-wearing, as demanded by some jobs, can cause actual physical illness as well.  One TCW Defending Freedom reader, midwife Mary Stewart, wrote to the British Occupational Hygiene Society for clarification on the health risks of microfibre shedding from day-long mask wearing. Mary’s son had developed a sinus infection severe enough for him to attend A & E caused, she believed, by his having to wear a mask for nine hours a day. The doctor said he was seeing a lot of this, all non-Covid related. 

The fence-sitting response Mary received from the BOHS said that health risks from mask-wearing were of concern but that they had not yet reached any firm conclusions.

My home in Oxford is close to several schools. I am dismayed to see pupils of all ages wearing masks in the street. Gaggles of teenagers talk to each other while wearing masks. And I was distressed to see a picture of Jacques and Gabriella, the six-year-old twins of Prince Albert of Monaco, wearing masks as they hugged each other. 

The fear level has been ramped up so much that a friend who lives on the Isle of Wight said he was on a beach by himself when an elderly lady walked past wearing a mask. He said there was nobody else in sight!

I can state here that since last Tuesday I have been going out and about with a bare face (apart from make-up, of course) to test the water, as it were. As a precaution I bought a couple of Mask Exempt badges and downloaded an exemption card in case I was confronted, and this has happened only once.

As I walked into a shop, one customer asked rudely: ‘Where’s your mask?’ I told her I was exempt and the woman behind the counter asked to see proof. I showed her my badge and said that I also had an exemption certificate in my wallet. She accepted these exemptions and agreed to serve me but told me it was the law that anybody exempt must display proof by wearing their exemption card on a lanyard round their neck.

But is it the law? The latest information from the Government website, updated on December 2, states plainly that you are exempt if you cannot wear a mask because of physical or mental illness, if wearing one causes severe distress or if you rely on lip-reading. 

Further, it says you do not need to show written evidence or an exemption card. I quote: ‘Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.’

It is legally enough, then, to state that you cannot wear a mask, and so far nobody else has asked to see my exemption card or badge. The Metro newspaper, distributed free in the London area, splashed in its edition of Friday December 3 that 152 passengers travelling on public transport had been fined, another 125 were turned off the bus or Tube, and another 5,100 told to cover up, according to Transport for London. 

Speaking from my own experience, I took the coach from Oxford to London without wearing a mask. The driver said they had been told not to be confrontational and not to turn passengers off the bus for not wearing a mask. On a London bus I was the only maskless passenger and nobody said anything. If you look confident and are reasonably well-dressed, you are likely to remain unchallenged, as I am discovering.

As it happens, my own mental health has been affected by the ridiculous mask-wearing imposition. For many years I have suffered from tinnitus and no longer hear very well. I simply can’t make out what people are saying from behind a mask. This has been causing immense stress as I have to strain to hear every word. In any case, a mask will not fit if I am wearing my hi-tech hearing aids. What with glasses as well, there is simply too much going on behind the ears. But even if I did not have a hearing problem, I would still refuse to wear a mask, out of principle.

So, far from regarding Sir Desmond Swayne as a ‘maskidiot’, I applaud him as possibly the only sensible MP right now. I’m joining you, Desmond, in the hope that ever more of us will walk the streets unmasked and restore some kind of sanity to the country.

The current mask mandate is supposed to be lifted on December 21.  Will it happen? I have my doubts.

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Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson
Liz Hodgkinson is an author and journalist.

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