9th April 2020 – Authorities in the UK are dithering over the use of face masks


A Blog by Dr David J Flavell PhD FRCPath
Charity & Scientific Director of Leukaemia Busters

9th April 2020

Face Mask Dithering!

In my blog on the 3rd April (Unmasking the Myths) I argued strongly in favour for the use of face masks by everyone in public places. I presented the good reasons and strong rationale for the potential benefits of this and yet the authorities in the UK are still dithering over the value of such a move in helping reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19 in the community.

The failure of the UK authorities to recommend the wearing of face masks and the reasons they give are very weak and really do not stand up to careful scrutiny. Firstly they argue that there is no evidence that wearing a face mask is of benefit. That view alone is contentious as I argued in my blog on the 3rd April and, as I said then, and as I will say again now if there is uncertainty then you err on the side of caution and do it anyway.

Weak Reasons Against Face Mask Use

Now the UK authorities have come up with another very weak reason for individuals not to wear face masks in public, it is, they said yesterday “likely to give a false sense of security that will lead to people not following social distancing, hand washing and other rules”. Yet another weak reason they have given in the recent past is that wearing a face mask might lead to higher levels of transmission because people become infected from contagion that might accumulate on the outside of the mask. None of this stands up to serious scientific scrutiny. By the UK authorities own admission there is no evidence for benefit or not but nor is there any evidence that wearing a mask will increase the risk. My sound argument is quite simply that any kind of barrier between the nose, mouth and the surrounding outside world is bound to reduce person to person transmission particularly in public places where there are likely to be asymptomatic carriers in close proximity.

The UK Government Should Take Action Now

UK government please look around the world to other countries and see what they’re doing in places where infection rates are now being brought under control, countries where mask wearing is compulsory. Let us not learn this lesson the hard way and have to say in a few months’ time well if we had enforced the use of masks in the first place then the infection and subsequent death rates would have been lower and it follows that we would have been locked down for a shorter period. Wake up UK government and its advisers, your arguments against the use of face masks in public places are hollow, unproven and possibly fatally flawed in every sense of the word. Make face mask wearing in all public places compulsory now lest you are judged by your inaction on this in the months and years ahead.

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