ANNE MARIE WATERS’ SUNDAY COLUMN
‘Don’t Mask, Don’t Get’
Sunday July 19th 2020
The mysterious Bristol artist ‘Banksy’, who anonymously creates graffiti based art in public places throughout the country, has left his mark on a London tube. The artist stencilled images of rats wearing face masks and complying with coronavirus restrictions. Banksy, an obvious advocate of unquestioning obedience to the government, has named the collection ‘If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get’.
Don’t get what? Food? Medical treatment? Well, yes. That’s exactly what is meant. Great Britain has entered that arena. The government will tell us to cover our faces and if we don’t, they can (and will) deny us the ability to feed ourselves or visit the doctor. What’s tragic is that the likes of Banksy, supposed to be ‘edgy’ and non-conforming, is promoting absolute blind obedience to the state. (I remember when ‘edgy rebels’ didn’t preach unquestioning deference to the powerful but those were simpler times).
The Government has decided that from the 24th of July (no reason for that particular date, stop asking questions) face masks will be compulsory in shops. They will not however be compulsory in pubs, bars, or restaurants. (Stop asking questions). Even more bizarrely, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, gave an embarrassing interview in which he said that a person does need to wear a mask if buying a takeaway sandwich from Pret a Manger. However, if they plan to sit down inside Pret a Manger and eat their sandwich there, no mask is required.
Stop asking questions.
Furthermore, staff in shops won’t wear masks, but customers will.
But the icing on the cake is this: masks do not prevent a person from being infected with COVID-19. In fact, they achieve very little, if anything at all.
The ‘selling point’ of the masks appears to be that an asymptomatic sufferer, wearing the mask, reduces the chances of transmission. But does anyone spot a problem? If this disease is so deadly, why are so many suspected of having it while showing no symptoms?
That’s not the only confusion. Only a couple of months ago, Dr Jake Dunning, head of emerging infectious disease at Public Health England said that there is “very little evidence of a widespread benefit” of mask wearing. He added: “Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.”
Why then are they being imposed in such an arbitrary and haphazard fashion, when only by strict and regulated use can they be of any benefit?
Stop asking questions.
If none of this makes any sense, that’s because none of this makes any sense. It is even less understandable given that we have just begun to come out of lockdown and have restrictions eased. Then the most restrictive policy of all makes a sudden appearance.
Worse still, we don’t know when this will end. Some articles suggest that we will obliged to wear masks (sometimes, in some places, none of which make any sense) until the elusive coronavirus vaccine is found.
We have no idea how long this will take, nor do we know what will happen to those who refuse a vaccine. Did you ever imagine that this is where we would be in 2020?
We’ve established that the mask requirements are arbitrary and nonsensical. How on earth can a mask not be required to sit in a restaurant, but it is required to obtain a takeaway from the same restaurant?
We’re told just to obey, just do it, what is there to lose? Actually, quite a lot. Way more than there is to gain.
The cost of mask wearing has not been quantified, so I’ll attempt to do so here.
Our culture is one built on trust. Our economy is designed around it. The essence of purchase and sale and contract are based upon trust, our willingness to do the right thing. This works, but the human element of it is primary. Human contact is of the most crucial importance in building trust. This cannot be done without access to the face. We must see each other’s faces in order to fully connect. Crucially, our smile builds trust. That smile will now be hidden under masks. Do not understate the importance of this, it will change us. It will change how we feel about each other, it will change how we interact. Those who don’t wear masks (for one of the many exceptions for example) will be treated as no less than killers. One can already see the dirty looks exchanged between strangers who have suddenly become enemies because of the presence or otherwise of masks.
What about our health? Is wearing masks healthy? No. Of course it isn’t. Dr Vernon Coleman, who speaks out rather candidly against these masks, said that people have died from wearing them, and more are very likely to do the same. Furthermore, those whose profession requires them to wear masks are obliged to change and dispose of them on a very regular basis (every few hours). Are we to do the same? If not, why not? If so, who will pay for them? Finally, where will the discarded masks go?
Stop asking questions.
To finish this column, let’s look to the government’s official advice. Pay close attention to the language used (as a rule in fact, that’s my constant advice – always pay attention to specific words).
The first thing the government tells you to do is stay away from people. It states: “it is important to be aware that the risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with the virus, and the amount of time you spend in close contact with them. Therefore, you are unlikely to be infected if you walk past another person in the street.”
Why then are we likely to transmit it if we walk past each other in shops?
Stop asking questions.
Then we are told to avoid face to face contact. Instead, we should stand “side by side”. (Why do I get the sudden urge to roll my eyes when I read this?)
The third piece of advice is to wash our hands. Sound advice at all times if I may say so.
We are furthermore advised to keep well ventilated rooms, avoid crowds (unless attending a Black Lives Matter rally), work from home, avoid public transport, avoid shouting or singing, reduce the contact or time spent with work colleagues, keep your clothes clean (again, good advice generally), and follow onsite advice wherever you happen to be.
There is a recurring theme in all of this, and it will have an incredibly damaging effect. In combination, all of these rules and regulations make very little scientific sense, but what they will do, and what they’ll achieve quite easily, is to drive a wedge between us, distance us from each other both emotionally and physically.
It is the breakdown of the trusting society we have taken centuries to build. It will be unravelled in the space of mere months. Snitching and arguing and expressions of fear and revulsion between strangers has already started. It reminds me of ‘1984’, when the kids reported their own parents for ‘wrongthink’.
To return to the topic at hand, the government guidance on face masks (or ‘face coverings’ as they’ve decided to call them) is a must-read. In fact, I’ll post some of it here.
“The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.”
The best available? Is it from the same people who said half a million of us would die? Pay attention to the “may” and “in certain circumstances”. Our trust society, our relations with one another, are being poisoned beyond repair for something that “may” help in “certain circumstances”.
The exemptions are equally bewildering. Firstly, the rules are different depending on where you are in the UK, which either means the virus is different in different parts of the UK, or the rules are simply being made up by useless officials as they go along. My money is on the latter.
The guidance states: “In settings where face coverings are mandated in England, there are some circumstances, for health, age or equality reasons, whereby people are not expected to wear face coverings in these settings.” Equality reasons? Huh? That’s not explained further sadly.
Here is the list of exemptions.
- young children under the age of 11
- not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
- if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
- if you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
- to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
- to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
- to eat or drink, but only if you need to
- to take medication
- if a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering
These exemptions are so broad and vague as to make the whole thing even more erratic. What exactly is the point of this? There may be lesser transmission in some circumstances and cases? That’s why we’re turning citizens in to enemies, fearful of one another? That’s why we’re covering faces making the risk of crime higher? That’s why we’re disconnecting from each other in the most fundamental ways? That’s why we’re inflicting a rule that will have catastrophic social consequences? Because it may help reduce transmission in some circumstances?
Do you think this is wise?
While providing you with a list of exemptions that cover just about everyone, punishments for non-conformers are also specified. These are:
Measures can be taken if people do not comply with this law. Transport operators can deny service or direct someone to wear a face covering. If necessary, the police and Transport for London authorised officers can issue fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days). Shops and supermarkets will be expected to encourage compliance with the law (as they would do more generally) and can refuse entry. In both cases, if necessary, the police have the powers to enforce these measures, including through issuing a fine of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days).
So what happens if I have an exemption and yet a supermarket refuses to allow me entry? What if I find it all too distressing so I don’t wear a mask, then I get in to a furious row with a supermarket worker who won’t allow me to buy food. Police are called, fines issued, the supermarket worker and I are firm enemies, the police are distracted from real crime (not that they seem to mind), and our relationship with each other, as fellow citizens, suffers a fatal blow.
And of all of it because it may help in certain circumstances.
If you’re not convinced about the wisdom of all this, or you simply don’t trust it, then I’m afraid it’s you who is the problem. Just do as you’re told you troublemaker and be very careful; you want to eat don’t you?
Remember this above all…. if you don’t mask, you don’t get.
Anne Marie Waters
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