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Tuesday, 14 July 2020


Nothing illustrates the character of the British better than reactions to the mask-up. Here, when just about all but food shops and tobacconists were shut in a lock down, masks were compulsory from Day One. The first few days the law was in force, a staff member stood outside the door handing out masks to anyone who hadn't brought one. It wasn't over-prescriptive; a variety of scarves, pashminas and home-made coverings went unremarked - just so long as mouth and nose were covered. There were no arguments. Everyone complied. It wasn't a big thing.

More remarkably, there was practically no debate in advance over whether it would or wouldn't be effective, whether it was an unbearable imposition on civil liberties or on exactly how it was to be enforced. There were no impassioned declarations of defiance, no rebels vowing to die of starvation rather than don a mask in Tesco, no police chiefs planning cell capacity for mask-rebels. 

That the UK will present an almost totally opposite reaction is actually a good thing. It's part of a British character that would also not have accepted without demur that Jews had to wear yellow stars or Downs children must be handed over for euthanising. And yes, I'm quite sure the PM agonised over it. He really is a libertarian - as Michael Deacon points out in the Telegraph -
We appeared to be watching a wrestling match between two sides of Mr Johnson’s personality. The side that is libertarian, laissez-faire and stoutly opposed to State meddling – and the side that, on the whole, would quite like fewer people to die of Covid-19.
Well, I can only point out that Austria got on top of the first wave very quickly, with a mortality rate much lower than the UK's. How much of this was due to masks and how much to cleanliness, distancing and a very low population density I simply can't hazard an opinion. Mask prices here have fallen from 37.50€/50 to 15.99€/50 and as a second wave is now inevitable - which may actually be more severe than that in the UK - it's a good time to stock up.  


DAD said...

Population density seems to be an important factor. All the French Departements that have one (or more) very large towns have had a higher incidence of cases and deaths.
My own departement in very rural France with no very large towns was one that had the lowest problems.
When the 'confinement' was eased in May, I observed that 80% of the ladies wore masks whilst shopping , but only 50% of men. Yesterday the figures were about 50% and 30%.

DeeDee99 said...

I'm really disappointed with you Raedwald. In the past few months, you've steadily morphed from a libertarian-conservative into just another authoritarian, as has Boris.

This is the article he wrote in The Daily Telegraph a couple of years ago, in defence of people being allowed to wear what they like.

"If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree telling a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear, in a public place, when she is simply minding her own business.....human beings must be able to see each other’s faces and read their expressions. It’s how we work."

As soon as my local shops started re-opening, I started using them. Now I won't be. I shall only go to the supermarket for my weekly shop; all my discretionary spending on the High Street will stop - until I can do it without wearing a face nappy.

Anonymous said...

The UK's hot spot is the Shetland Islands. Low population density is not that relevant because people still congregated in pubs, shops, churches, workplaces etc.

China with 1.4 billion have stamped on it well, credit where it's due, on the other hand.

Raedwald said...

Dee Dee - I still thoroughly defend your right to infect yourself with Covid 19 should you so wish. It's your right to do so.

However, libertarianism has never been about exercising your own rights at the expense of others. Never. To insist on your own right to do something that hurts others isn't libertarianism, it's selfishness, the cult of ME, utterly egotistical, narcissistic and self-centred.

I'd recommend Montesquieu's 'Spirit of the Laws' to better explain the differences. And de Tocqueville of course - 'Democracy in America'.

DJK said...

Here in Scotland, mask wearing in shops started last week with no real problems and with high levels of compliance. The interesting thing for me was seeing how many more people were wearing masks in the street as a result. Only two deaths during the last week in Scotland. Perhaps this is luck, but Nippy will get the credit when compared with England's 600 deaths/week.

Populaltion density doesn't quite seem to work as you'd think. High density Korea has controlled the virus very well. And after the initial peak, cases and deaths were falling much faster in London than in the UK as a whole. Although for the last three weeks the London numbers have stopped falling and have flatlined.

Mask wearing became pretty much inevitable, given how much the government really doesn't want to go back to the top of the international death league during a second wave.

jim said...

The politician's dilemma, we know what to do, the problem is getting elected again afterwards.

In a way Covid 19 is a disease of the Internet age, it has screwed the politicians' usual answer to this sort of problem - 'don't do very much' and turned it into 'must make a big media splash'. Even better, Covid shows that 'you cannot lie to Mother Nature' and also that Mother Nature does not give up her secrets easily.

As for the Brits not pinning yellow stars - phooey, we Brits are people like any other. A little (not so gentle) media manipulation and a spot of '3 o'clock knock' and we would be up there with the best - pinning stars like billy-oh. People are the same the world over.

So, when you have tried all the easy options and they don't work, start trying the harder options.

Mark said...

I wore a mask a few days ago for the first time when I went to the dentist.

I was surprised how uncomfortable it felt and hot breath (which no amount of adjustment seemed to help) made my glasses mist up constantly.

If I have to wear one in a shop, so be it, but it will be removed as soon as I am one inch from the door. Definitely will be looking at more online slots.

Poisonedchalice said...

@jim - "The politician's dilemma, we know what to do, the problem is getting elected again afterwards."

So true, it made me laugh!

Anyway, I started wearing my FFP3 mask with excellent filtration (once used for poisonous particulates) as soon as the pandemic kicked off. Nothing new for me!

DeeDee99 said...

@ Raedwald. I suggest you read Toby Young in Lockdown Sceptics. The "science" re the efficacy of cloth masks is conflicted; there is no clear evidence that they are effective. Just as there was no clear scientific evidence that the lockdown would be effective.
The Government is making choices - and my opinion, it is making the wrong ones.
That isn't "the cult of me." It's me reading the evidence available, assessing it and reaching a conclusion.

Raedwald said...

Dee Dee - there's no certainty that you will kill someone each time you drive drunk, and I'm sure Toby Young could make an argument that he's a better driver after drinking five pints ...

Anonymous said...

If masks are now so vital why aren't the supermarkets' staff all dead?

DJK said...

Dee Dee: You could rely on Toby Young (PPE, Oxford) or then again, you might look at the many peer-reviewed scientific papers on the effectiveness of masks, or the correlation between mask wearing and low infection rates.

One day there will be a simple, quick test to show if you are infectious with Covid-19. Only people who pass the test will be allowed on aeroplanes, or into football stadiums. Until then, we will just have to live with masks.

Nessimmersion said...

The scientific evidence, RCT trials and all that has been in for a while:
S Korea got on top of virus by immigration control/isolation/hygeine.
The closest correlation is between Covid lethality and hygeine - Korea Japan etc having 50%+ toilets as bidet toilets, SE Asia not shaking hands on introduction etc.
There is no social distancing on Korean Japanes transport, they are still packing them in on trains.
Public hygeine and handwashing is the strongest slow down measure.
There is no way known to stop a virus spreading, we can only slow it down, the question is do we slow it down to a point where it causes more damage.
There is no 2nd 3rd wave etc, all that's happening is a slow or fast progression through the population.
If masks worked, Japan would have a lower flu rate than the rest of the world - it doesn't- can anyone work that out?
Sweden without all these ridiculous & pointless controls:

Really depends how many extra caƱcer deaths you intend causing by your need for social control over others.

Dave_G said...

If it's selfish to not wear a mask to save others then why wasn't the indignation prevelant pre-covid when the annual influenza we suffer kills MORE than Covid ever has or will?

This attitude towards 'wearing masks to save others' is the utmost hypocrisy writ large.

Raedwald said...

Wearing a mask also signals "... this may have no effect, and wearing it is a pain in the arse, but I'm prepared to suffer the inconvenience for the sake of the rest of you" - indeed, I think in Austria, where the bonds and obligations of community remain strong, as well as in SE Asia, where the same applies, this is the persuader.

In more atomised societies where a lesser sense of altruistic obligation subsists, one can expect a greater resistance to mask wearing.

Sobers said...

The reason the UK has done so badly on covid is that the NHS is a totally sh&t healthcare system.

Arkus said...

Sobers nails it in one.

DiscoveredJoys said...


Even if face masks have no effect, please wear a mask for the benefit of pale stale males like me, or your parents/grandparents, or your friends who may have a genetic predisposition to catch the virus more easily, suffer more, or die more easily.

You may then bask in the glow of not contributing to a second wave (if it happens) or the current wave being extended. You may also freely castigate those miserable self-interested people who care only for themselves.

If masks truly are an anathema to you, or a 'sign of servitude' then isolate yourself at home until the pandemic is over. You can still freely castigate those miserable self-interested people who care only for themselves.

Dave_G said...

To summarise:

1. We're lied to about the creation of the virus
2. We're lied to about its deadliness
3..We're lied to about the death figures (with or from)
4. We're lied to about the accuracy of testing
5. We're lied to about the second wave
6. We're lied to about a potential cure
7. We're lied to about the effectiveness of masks
8. We're lied to about the reason for lock down

Need I go on?

Finbar said...

I dont understand the commotion, if private businesses require you to wear a mask then you have to, you have a choice of
either doing commerce with them or not! If i say to you remove your shoes on entering my house then thats what you have to do my house my rules, its not about liberty

Mark said...

I think the sense of altruistic obligation in this country is related to absorption of UV.

We all know this but we mustn't say. Government actually does admit this but the true reasons - of which they are perfectly aware - are an absolute taboo.

I have to confess that I have been rather cavalier regarding masks and this whole thing generally.

Why? Well, where I live I know, with a high degree of confidence, how the people I share this town with have been comporting themselves and we all know what I mean. I imagine many of you also live in such horrible places.

Swanno said...

Outraged at the idea of strapping a life-saving piece of cloth to your face? Here’s how to justify your pointless opposition to face masks.

Common sense is more effective

The VE Day conga is concrete proof that England can be relied upon to use its world-beating common sense in a crisis. This means there’s no use for face masks, and we can probably do without seat belts and the fire brigade too.

They make me look stupid

The nose and mouth are famously the coolest parts of the body, and by hiding them away you might as well be walking around with your flies undone. When you leave your facial cavities exposed, people want to shag you. That’s just scientific fact.

They undermine nature

A protective mask flies in the face of nature’s magnificently designed respiratory system. Just ignore that the natural world also currently includes an incurable virus that’s killed hundreds of thousands of people. Ours is not to reason why.

Trump wears them now

Trump has been wrestled into a face mask, so anyone who follows his example is also tacitly agreeing with all of his dog whistle political messages. Show you’re nothing like him by vocalising your hatred for face masks with some all caps tweets.

There’s no scientific benefit

Lots of things have no scientific benefit, such as working in marketing or Brexit, but they still exist. Given the death toll, why not err on the side of caution instead of throwing a big tantrum as if your mum has made you wear a sensible anorak to school.

Ed P said...

Apart from the uselessness of 99% of the masks used, which do not trap viral particles, there is a health issue with the build-up of CO2, trapped within the mask. The CO2 can reach concentrations which are dangerous, as this video shows by sampling it:

I wonder if it's sufficient evidence for a legal challenge to the enforcement?

Mark said...

I think you need some sense of perspective. It's not the black death.

You specifically mentioned England and Trump. All we need to know.

Span Ows said...

We have discovered that there is deadly acid rain that kills you on contact. Therefore we, as UK Gov, make it Law to take an acid-secure umbrella whenever you go out, starting two weeks tomorrow.

see the problem?

DJK said...

OK, I'll bite.

> see the problem?

If the mask was just to protect the wearer, as with the acid rain proof umbrella, then there would be no need of compulsion. But the mask is to protect other people from you.

It's really just plain old courtesy to wear one; something that most of Europe, Scotland, North America, East Asia have no problem with.

If it really makes you that angry then stay off public transport and get stuff delivered to your home.

Span Ows said...

DJK. You are not addressing my actual point (maybe my fault!) IF it is mainly/entirely to protect others then why the delay? And why not 3 months ago? Don't say we were quarantined, every supermarket would have been a superspreader hub. Why the staggered lockdown strategy but NO obligatory mask-wearing? I am not angry at all (others may be) I just despair at knee-jerk reactions that are months after the event. If they did this, even as a knee jerk, in mid-march due to not knowing but let's be on the safe side then so be it. Now it is pig-headed control-freakery, seeing how far they can take this.

Sobers said...

"Well, where I live I know, with a high degree of confidence, how the people I share this town with have been comporting themselves and we all know what I mean. I imagine many of you also live in such horrible places."

Its noticeable how the media and the authorities are tiptoeing around the blatant disregard for the existing social distancing rules etc in the more 'diverse' parts of the country, and the strange coincidence that there's more virus cases in those areas.

I'll bet a pound to a farthing that the new mask rules will be ignored entirely in places like Leicester, and the police etc will do nothing about it. But if a middle aged white man tries to walk into an empty Tesco at 9pm without a mask the entire local plod will be there like a shot.

We see what they are doing, we aren't blind.

Greg T said...

Diseases know no political bouindaries & thrive on idiocy
One only has to look at the USA & Belarus for proof of this.
You also have to remember that BoZo is a persistent, consitent LIAR - has been all his life.
Chickens / home / roost

And later - no NOT EVEN WRONG
Toby Young is a wanker

AS Readwald has clearly noted & correctly.

I have great difficulty in wearing a conventional mask -so I wear a metal-mesh visor, designed for safety work, which is about an inch off my face.

Nessimmersion said...

What is the Japanese incidence of flu compared to UK given prevalence of masks.
All the mask boosters should logically now say lower and be prepared to put money on it.
Any takers?

Nessimmersion said...

This metal mesh, what size are the holes?

Dave_G said...

@DJK. The mask wearing is just an extension of the failure to lock down THE VULNERABLE and leave the rest of us to get on with our lives.

On the basis that YOU would wear a mask how does me NOT wearing one impact on your safety?

Four words.

No media - no hysteria.

Span Ows said...

...the frog is just liking the warmth of the water at the moment: the temperature is quite comfortable but seems to be getting warmer, no worries, it's OK, he can still swim round the sauepan quite easily.

Anonymous said...

Masks are a good idea but not for another 10 days.

That maybe because Rushi is looking down the back of his sofa for a few hundred million to fly an RAF plane to pick up some masks from Turkey.


PS @Raedwald - looks like you lost one of your readers -

Anonymous said...


Toby Young in Lockdown Sceptics... Is Toby the same kind of expert as James Delingpole on WTO trade?

Nessimmersion said...

No, I think he's more like Tom Worstall on economics or like the editor of the Times or Telegraph ( right of centre but only just, he supported free schools which are a Swedish social democrat thing for instance)

Anonymous said...

So many angry epidemiologists, virologists and scientists all come to this blog.
It’s amazing.
Some of them are also conspiracy fanatics or is that fantasists?

@raedwald It’s almost like you encourage it. I guess you do, but to what end?

Mark said...

Trolls do unfortunately

Greg T said...

Dave G
1: We DO NOT KNOW where the virsu came from
2: We had no idea as to how deadly it is - we know better, now [ It's called SCOENTIFIC PROGRESS - idiot ]
3: We still don't know what the figures are - simply because thye are almost certainly wrong, it does not mean it was lying.
4: Possibly - but testing for a new disease is always going to be difficult
5: No. Again, we do not know, but, given the model of 1918-19 a second wave is entirely possible
6: Certainly - by Trump & his fascist goons
7: Were we? Masks reduce the possibility of you infecting other people ...
8: A straiht lie.

It's a scientific & medical problem

It's astandard industrial-issue available form Amazon, used for people operating (say) grass-strimmers or hedge-cutters.
If I sneeze, 90% of the droplets will stay inside & those tha pass through will not go far.

Dave G
EVERYONE is vulnerable - given the blood-clotting & other after-effects.

Anonymous said...

Oopps... this isn't supposed to happen. How will snake-oil salesmen survive?

Coronavirus could be ‘under control’ in weeks if everyone wore masks, CDC director says

Mark said...

I would imagine Boris will be PM until 2024 at least.

DeeDee99 said...

This morning I listened to IDS on Talk Radio (Julia Hartley-Brewer's show). He is not happy with mask-compulsion either. His solution to the laudable wish to get the economy moving again, which is what this is really about, is for the Government to be a bit more honest about the people most at risk from the virus, which is basically the very elderly/frail - not draconian laws which will just spread more fear.

Unfortunately, the authoritarians in the Government are now in complete control.

Dave_G said...


Its paranoid, delusional, BBC/Guardian-believers like you that allow the Government to do what they do.

Your 'answers' to my list expose your gullibility and inability to think for yourself - another reason Government gets away with control.

I'd respond to each of your points to disabuse you but your type wouldn't change their opinion in the face of any facts whatsoever so I won't waste my time.

Anonymous said...

If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate and we would have to recognize that most of our problems are not caused by Brussels, but by chronic British short termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure.

Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph, 2013

Mark said...

Not like the EU then

Nigel Sedgwick said...

Raedwald writes: "Well, I can only point out that Austria got on top of the first wave very quickly, with a mortality rate much lower than the UK's. How much of this was due to masks and how much to cleanliness, distancing and a very low population density I simply can't hazard an opinion."

This stuff all surely helps. But Raedwald's list seems to be missing out the fact that Austria has smoking/smokeless tobacco consumption at around 37.5% of the population (one of the highest in Europe); this compares to around 17.7% for the UK. This likely benefit, which assumes the nicotine prophylactic hypothesis is true, means that Austria has an inbuilt herd immunity that helps along the lines of scaling the non-herd-immunity R-factor by 0.76 compared to equivalent non-herd effects and the UK's smoking/smokeless tobacco consumption.

I am sure that no single factor is dominant in protection from Covid-19, but ignoring a likely material effect strikes me folly.

Keep safe and best regards

Raedwald said...

Nigel - Excellent point

Anonymous said...

All very well till they discover masks cause other hazards.

Greg T said...

Actually everyboody is vulnerable, especially now we know about the blood-cloting & other nasty aftereffects

Dave G
I don't read the Grauniad - & I know the guvmint has lied to us about one medical matter (achohol)
It's a medical probnlem NOT a political one, as BoZo's gross incompetence has shown, actually.
As someone with a first degree in Physics & an MSC in Engineering, I like my facts, not politicians' spin - unlike you

Anonymous said...

@Nigel Sedgwick - you forgot to mention the bleach chasers.

Greg T said...

A REMINDER ot Dave G & to Readwald ( Please keep a copy of this note, huh? )

Long ago, I voted tory - the party of Macmillan & Hume & Major & Heath & Churchill ( I was present at WSC's last public speech in 1955 )
That tory party no longer exists - an semi-extreme right-0wing rump, misruled by BoZo the clown is in its place.
Even the Madwoman was pro-Europe & respected technical experts ...

W T F has come over you people?

franknhonest said...

We are at the end of the curve. The chances of catching the virus, let alone dying from Covid, are absolutely minuscule.
We have been shopping in supermarkets and corner shops for weeks without wearing masks. No problem. Yet now the government wants to introduce mandatory mask wearing. Why?
To keep the fear levels up. Masks won't help - they will do the opposite. They have become the ultimate virtue-signalling tool for those convinced of their own righteousness and the need for other people to wear them.
The idea that you could pass on the virus when you have no symptoms yourself may have had some validity at the peak of the epidemic, but it has absolutely none now.
The logical conclusion of this "asymptomatic infection" reasoning is that the pro-maskers will never again not wear a mask, because the virus will always be out there and somebody could have it. If you want to spend the rest of your life treating other people as diseased and to be kept away from, then fine. Just keep your miserable behaviour away from the rest of us!