This, from the US Surgeon General (their top medical officer) is so easy and helpful that it’s amazing that we haven’t seen something like it from Irish authorities. Watch, it’s literally 30 seconds that could, if you’re an at-risk person, save your life:

What’s interesting about this, and the whole mask problem in general, is that just a few weeks ago, the US Surgeon General (yes, the same fellow in that video) was saying something entirely different:

So, at the end of February, the message is “don’t be silly, you don’t need a mask”, and just four weeks later, masks are so important that he’s making genuinely helpful videos explaining how to make your own?

What’s the reason for that? Because it’s not just something that happened in the US.

The reason, apparently, is that they were afraid that the public might run out, buy all the masks, and that healthcare workers wouldn’t be able to get them. This whole piece from The Week, is worth your time – The noble lie about masks and coronavirus should never have been told:

We must put an end to the idea that the best way to get through this crisis is to say things we know are not true in the hope of getting people to behave a certain way. This means not saying masks are useless when what you really mean is, “Masks are in short supply, please consider before you start hoarding them whether you really need them at present and if so how many.”

To be fair, you can kind of understand why Governments would try to prevent people from stockpiling masks and other equipment that might be needed in hospitals – especially given, as Niamh has covered, the absolute crisis here in Ireland with a shortage of PPE for front line medics.

But the problem is this: What else have they lied about, for the sake of the common good? I remember saying to my wife a few weeks ago, during the run on the supermarkets, that Government reassurance that the supermarkets would have plenty of stock tomorrow would be exactly the kind of thing they would say if there was going to be no food in the supermarkets tomorrow.

The problem, during a panic, is that the most important thing a Government can do is to stop the panic. And sometimes, that means telling lies to stop a worse catastrophe. It’s an interesting moral conundrum, actually: If the supermarkets are going to be empty tomorrow, do you lie to people and tell them that they’ll be full, just to stop a panic? On balance, you probably do, because the bigger risk is a total breakdown of order as people scramble to get the last toilet roll, or whatever.

But lying in that kind of situation also comes with a longer-term cost. Telling people that masks are useless – as every Government did – when masks are anything but useless means that the sensible thing if you’re a member of the public is to ignore them the next time they tell you that there’s no need to do anything to protect yourself.

Anyway, that’s all academic now. The most important thing is this: If you are an at-risk person, or live with one, or are likely to come into contact with at-risk people: Wear a mask. And if you can’t buy one, then use the video above to make your own. We just made our own here in Tipperary. It’s very easy. And it only cost me my favourite tee-shirt.

Oh well. It didn’t fit any more, anyway.