Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Lament of a bare-faced rebel


HONESTLY I despair, I really do. Five months after the mask mandate ended, not only are more people than ever wearing masks in my part of the world, including small children, but we are increasingly being bullied into stringing them on.  

The other night, I went to a lecture at an Oxford college to find that at least 95 per cent of the audience of several hundred were wearing masks. At a book launch a few weeks ago at least half of the audience were wearing masks – even if they took them off once they sat down, they walked in wearing them. 

The request ‘Please wear a face covering’ had started to appear on bus tickets and some people I thought were intelligent are now saying they won’t get on a bus any more because some of the passengers are not wearing masks. 

The Transport for London website states: ‘You must wear a face covering on the Transport for London network, in stations and for the whole of your journey.’  Although masks are not compulsory on trains, National Rail have said that they still expect passengers to wear them throughout their journey. I’m sad to say that most people do. The level of compliance is beyond belief.

Queen Letizia of Spain has recently been photographed wearing a white mask at a gala event. The nauseating captions said: ‘Queen Letizia shows off her impeccable style’ and referred to her ‘glorious’ tiara. How can you look impeccable and glorious when you are wearing the kind of mask doctors use for surgical procedures? You just look ridiculous. 

Boris Johnson was widely castigated for not wearing a mask when he was sitting next to 95-year-old Sir David Attenborough. I don’t have much admiration for the way Johnson has conducted the whole Covid farce but when I thought he was finally leading the way, he was condemned for not showing more respect for the ancient broadcaster, rather than admired for casting off the muzzle at last. 

Most shop staff are continuing to wear masks and when I, maskless of course, tell them that they don’t have to, they reply that they ‘choose’ to. Some of the bolder ones tell me they have read the science. If that’s really the case, they clearly haven’t read the same science as I have, which says that masks are not only useless to prevent the spread of disease but actually make you ill. There is even a condition called maskne, a form of acne caused by constant mask-wearing.

As ever, ‘the science’ is conflicting.  A report from the Cato Institute issued on November 8, 2021, entitled Evidence for Community Cloth Face Masking to Limit the Spread of SARS‐CoV‑2: A Critical Review has found that there is no clinical evidence for the efficacy of face masks. The report concludes: ‘Examination of the efficacy of masks has produced a large volume of mostly low to moderate quality of evidence that has largely failed to demonstrate their value in most settings.’ 

Yet if you read the good old Guardian, you will see apparently opposite findings. A report last Thursday by health editor Andrew Gregory cites a global study published in the British Medical Journal which he says has found that mask-wearing cuts Covid incidence by 53 per cent.

What on earth is 53 per cent? How did Gregory arrive at such a definite figure which the BMJ does not use? In fact the journal hedges its bets by saying: ‘This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that several personal and protective measures, including handwashing, mask wearing and physical distancing are associated with reductions in the incidence of Covid-19’ (my italics). 

The operative word here is ‘suggests’ and from that we can conclude that the findings of this so-called ‘study’ are vague in the extreme. But of course, the Guardian pounced on it with the same relish that it has greeted all repressive measures, adding with glee that mask-wearing has been re-imposed by the Dutch government and that Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have tightened their mask-wearing rules. 

This BMJ report was also trumpeted by the Times, another publication which eagerly seizes on any excuse to reimpose or continue the use of muzzles and which underlined its stance by featuring a photo of Queen Maxima of the Netherlands wearing a mask.

The mask manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank. From March to December 2020, 224billion masks were made in China. That was the equivalent of 40 masks for every person in the world outside China, and the figures must have vastly increased since then. In Brighton the other week, I saw a whole shop window full of masks: glittery ones, designer ones, masks to match your outfit and masks in which to cut a dash. 

When I go into a beauty salon, there is a box of masks at the entrance and I am offered one. When I say I am exempt, they accept it but of course they are all wearing masks themselves. Doctors’ surgeries and medical clinics also have boxes of masks for patients who walk in without one. 

My audiologist admitted that all this mask-wearing is causing immense stress to the deaf and hard of hearing, who rely on lip reading. He is wearing one himself, never mind that every single one of his patients has a hearing problem, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.  

My younger son and I had lunch in a restaurant recently, and I would say that we were the only customers who did not come in wearing a mask. My son became embarrassed when I fixed the wearers with my usual basilisk stare, shaking my head at their stupidity. When a masked person addresses me, I say loudly: ‘I’m sorry but I can’t hear what people are saying when they are wearing a mask.’

It makes no difference. They carry on wearing them. 

What’s wrong with people? Far from wanting to cast off their muzzles, breathe properly and become recognisable once again, they seem to be hugging their chains, or their masks, more than ever. A few years ago, there were campaigns in many countries to make hijabs and other face coverings worn by Muslim women illegal. Now, there are even renewed campaigns to make face masks compulsory again.  We are all willingly, it seems, wearing hijabs.

That is, except for me and the other brave souls who refuse to be tyrannised into wearing a face covering, as masks are euphemistically termed. I am just so disappointed that we appear to be in an ever-shrinking minority. If we are not careful, these masks will become the norm and our children will grow up in a world where nobody has a face, long after all real or supposed threat of Covid has evaporated. 

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

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