Loughborough Echo

Are masks lowering Covid infection rate?


A RECENT reader questioned why some MPs did not support the measures on wearing face masks.

These MPs (and others outside Parliament) are quite rightly questionin­g how much virus transmissi­on is actually occurring in shops and on public transport, and therefore the requiremen­t to wear a mask in these settings.

In July, England removed the requiremen­t to wear a mask in a shop, or on public transport (except in London) whereas Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland retained the measure. Subsequent­ly the ONS weekly infection level statistics showed no real divergence in infection levels between the home nations, hence bringing into question whether wearing a mask in shops and on public transport was having any real impact.

In England the removal of the requiremen­t to wear a mask in a shop resulted in a gradual drop-off in their use, although I would say that around 60 per cent were still wearing them at the time they became mandatory again.

But more noticeable was the reduction in shop-floor staff wearing them. I would suggest only around 25 per cent were doing so. Despite the lack of masks the staff appeared happy with the situation. The supermarke­t owners expressed no concerns about staff absence due to Covid infection, and the shop workers’ unions were not complainin­g about their staff being put at risk. All of which questions the degree of Covid transmissi­on in shops.

While it is true that wearing a mask may reduce the level of virus that an infected person puts into the air, in an environmen­t such as supermarke­t, where air management systems are constantly creating an airflow, and customers are nearly always on the move, there is little evidence of virus transmissi­on.

We are now more than 20 months into the pandemic, but we seem reluctant to take on board what we have learned during that time. What we do know is that Covid is not going away. Mark Iles suggests we are seeking to defeat Covid – we are not. We are trying to learn to live with it.

Restrictio­ns to our lives simply prolong the pandemic by delaying the point where immunity levels restrain infection. Where interventi­ons are required to prevent services being overwhelme­d, they should be limited to those that have a real impact on virus transmissi­on.

Neil Stafford

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