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Making the wearing of face masks compulsory is inconsistent, illogical, illiberal & divisive

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Boris Johnson's government in Westminster has performed a sharp U-turn and announced that wearing face masks will now be compulsory in shops in England from July 27. While there is some evidence of a moderate protective effect from wearing masks, the whole affair says more about the chaos inside the cabinet than it does about the merits of face masks. Worse, the leap from mild advice to legal compulsion shows how little regard the UK government now has for freedom.

Back in the early days of the pandemic, the UK governments – both in Westminster and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – took their lead from the World Health Organisation when it came to face masks. Reviews of randomised controlled trials on the use of face masks – the “gold standard” of medical evidence – seemed to indicate little benefit. In short, we were told, they were pretty much useless. Other things, like isolating if we had possible symptoms, washing our hands and making sure we sneezed into tissues or our elbows were far more important, we were told.

Some countries, particularly in East Asia along with central and eastern Europe, took a different approach and quickly made face masks mandatory. Those countries do seem to have had better outcomes in relation to Covid-19. But those countries were also different in lots of other ways from countries like the UK, France and the US that have fared less well.

For example, acting quickly to implement social distancing measures seems to have been very important in keeping case numbers down. What governments did seems less important, perhaps, than how quickly they did it. What difference face masks made is unclear.

As the........

© RT.com

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