Just mining the internet for a piece I’m trying to put together, when I found this:
This is the front page of the Telegraph, from the evening of 11th March 2020.
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Do face masks work?
To prevent catching or transmitting coronavirus in public, no. They are not recommended by the NHS, Public Health England (PHE), the World Health Organisation (WHO), or the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because there is no solid evidence they work. Indeed, they may do unforeseen harm.
Masks cause people to touch their faces more, increasing – not decreasing – the chances of them picking up the virus. They do not fit tightly and allow airborne particles in. People also wear them for much longer than they are designed, causing them to become moist, unsanitary and an ideal environment for bugs.
Most importantly, there is a risk that masks distract people from what the evidence overwhelmingly suggests is the best way of protecting yourself and others – washing your hands frequently. But as previously mentioned, hand-washing is boring and face masks look the part.
In the UK, there are concerns that stocks of surgical masks will run low as a result of the panic buying. The British Dental Association, for one, is rationing orders. In the US, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams didn’t mince his words when he issued the following Tweet: “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing the general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Why are people buying them anyway?
According to behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, “herd mentality, and a mixture of fear and greed.”
She told us: “When we see others do it, we feel we might be missing out if we don’t copy them. It is a way of taking some control in a situation we have little control over. Interestingly though, in spite of the panic buying of masks, you still see very few people actually wearing them out and about. At the moment they seem to be an insurance policy -people just feel safer just owning them.”
Medical Anthropologist Florence Walker suggests that many of us simply don’t believe the authorities who tell us masks are useless. “Hand-washing doesn’t have the same ‘magical’ talisman property that a face mask has,” she says. “In some ways it’s difficult to comprehend how masks couldn’t work.”
As to whether we’ll all be wearing them in the West at some point? “No. Not overnight, at least,” she says. “Face mask wearing has been a staple public health measure in Asia since the 1910 flu outbreak. It’s ingrained into their cultural psyche in a way it isn’t here.”