WHO would have thought that a flimsy piece of fabric would shatter this life-long Conservative woman’s confidence in a Conservative government?
The fabric in question is a scarf I wear to stop the draught going down my neck while I’m cycling to town. It’s thin and loosely-woven, so much so that if I wrap it around the lower part of my face, you can see my mouth and teeth.
Yet somehow, under the current Covid diktat, if I went into a shop like that, I would be perfectly within the law. But if I left my scarf where it usually sits, I would be breaking the law.
Full disclosure: I have done and will continue to do the latter. Not because I enjoy breaking the law, or putting others or myself in danger; I’m actually such a goody two-shoes in all other aspects of life that you’d probably throw up if you met me – and it wouldn’t be because I’d given you Covid; and I’m the annoying colleague that spots, and calls out, a trip hazard, say, at 1,000 paces.
But I have seen nothing to make me believe that covering my mouth and nose with anything from my manky, infrequently-washed cycling scarf to a pristine disposable face mask will do anything to keep others, or myself, from harm.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. I read, alongside all the advice on the health risks of reusable masks, the World Health Organisation’s own ‘Technical Guidance’,as updated on June 5. It lists five ‘potential benefits’ of face coverings, only one of which is to do with health, but 11 ‘potential harms’, chief of which is the risk of ‘self-contamination’ from touching the face while adjusting the mask.
‘I’m sure I heard the WHO was pro-mask, but I must have been wrong,’ I thought. Then, with a degree of bemusement, I got to the bit where the guidance says, in effect, ‘Yep, we know masks are probably a bit rubbish, but we’ll recommend them anyway.’
(I wondered if the WHO had turned pro-mask as a way of maintaining credibility with, or funding from, countries that had already adopted masks. But, thanks to journalist Deborah Cohen’s piece for BBC Newsnight, I learned the change was down to ‘political lobbying’.)