Covid rules: Face masks are a vital tool that must not be abandoned – Scotsman comment

There are many reasons to dislike face masks.

They muffle the voice, interfere with simple, non-verbal forms of communication like a smile, they steam up your glasses and are generally not particularly pleasant to wear.

However, masks have one quality that outweighs all the rest: they are highly effective at stopping the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

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As an example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously highlighted a real-world situation in which two hairdressers, who had Covid, were found to have interacted with 139 clients over eight days.

Fortunately, all concerned wore masks and of 67 clients who were traced and tested, not one had caught the disease. Other studies suggest mask-wearing in confined spaces can reduce the risk of transmission by about 70 per cent.

Furthermore, not only do masks remain a vital weapon in the struggle against this deadly plague – and its more insidious form, long Covid – they also have the knock-on effect of helping to allow the re-opening of the economy.

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So it makes sense for the Scottish government to continue to insist masks must be worn in shops, on public transport, and in indoor public spaces, unless medically exempt.

Face masks provide good protection against the spread of Covid, but only if everyone wears them (Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has said that mask-wearing in England will become a matter of “people’s personal responsibility” from Monday.

However, speaking on Sunday, UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi described the change as “moving from 'you must' to 'you are expected' to wear a mask in indoor spaces”, adding that wearing them would "help the whole country” – a markedly different tone.

And Johnson himself, while not backtracking on the guidance, has also spoken of the benefits of masks and warned that the Covid outbreak is “not over”.

The problem with a voluntary approach was spelt out by Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Sage committee which advises the UK government on Covid.

The evidence, he said, suggests that mask-wearing “does good, but only if everybody does it”. “I understand the [UK] government's reluctance to actually mandate it. On the other hand, if it's not mandated, it probably won't do any good,” he said.

Face masks are a vital tool in dealing with this crisis. We are fools to abandon them.

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