Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for May 10th, 2020

To Mask or Not to Mask?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 10th May, 2020

face maskTo mask or not to mask, that is the question. The advice that is around is contradictory, to say the least. Some countries are making wearing a face mask in public — especially on public transport — mandatory, while others say the face coverings are pointless in protecting oneself and others against the coronavirus. The WHO itself has been ambivalent about the issue, saying there is no clear evidence that masks can help stop the spread of the disease. But my attitude so far has been: surely they can’t actually do any harm, so why not wear one, especially when in the supermarket but also when a jogger or cyclist comes by as I am out for my daily walk in the woods. Looking at the people around me I see that only a small minority are actually wearing face masks — or do-it-yourself alternatives, such as a scarf wound round the mouth and nose — though the percentage is far higher among people of Chinese or other East Asian origin. As I know from travels in China and Japan, they are used to wearing masks even when they just have a sniffle so as to avoid infecting anyone else. But how about Brits as a whole?

no masks allowedThe N95 Mask Company — purveyor of an upmarket version of masks, at £15.99 a pair — has just published a survey that shows interesting variations. According to their figures, the top five cities or towns where people say they would wear a mask in public are as follows:

Durham 78%; London 76%; Newcastle upon Tyne 75%; Dundee 74%; Derry 71%

The bottom five towns and cities, i.e. those with the highest number of people who would not favour wearing a mask were:

Leicester 68%; Dudley 60%; Wrexham 56%; Southampton 55%; Warrington 54%

One should be wary about reading too much into this, as the sample size was not huge, but one thing that immediately struck me was that whereas the five enthusiastic mask embracers all voted Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum, with the exception of Leicester, the least willing all voted Leave. Make of that what you will. But I suspect that if one did a poll of people who have been demonstrating against lockdown one would find a majority were also Leavers. Over in the United States the lockdown rejectionists have been much more vocal, of course, and it is in America that one store has actually put up a sign that people wearing masks will not be allowed in.

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