“A change in scientific opinion”, trumpets the Irish Times:
“Pressure has increased on the Government to require that face masks be worn routinely by the public to contain the Covid-19 virus, in line with a change in scientific opinion in favour of the measure.
Scientists and TDs have called for the change based on indication that basic face masks in social settings can prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
Here’s the thing: There has been no change in scientific opinion on this question – none whatsoever.
The “dispute”, such as it was, was never about whether wearing facemasks was effective. The question (which, one might argue, was entirely contrived) was about whether the ordinary pleb could be trusted to wear a facemask properly.
Don’t believe me? Well, maybe you’ll believe the Irish Times itself:
“As the number of people wearing protective face masks in Ireland soars one of the State’s leading virologists has warned that the equipment may actually be doing more harm than good .
Dr Kim Roberts of the Trinity College virology department told The Irish Times that while there was some evidence suggesting face masks when worn correctly can have “a modest effect” on reducing transmission of Covid-19, “if not worn correctly, masks can pose as a hazard and can potentially increase the risk of transmission of the virus”.
The logic of that position was always utterly absurd, whether Dr. Roberts is a leading virologist or not. “Some people might not wear them properly” does not equate, and never has, to masks “doing more harm than good”. The concession, from day one, was always that they worked (hence the grudging “modest effect” line) but that they shouldn’t be worn.
But scandalously, it wasn’t just the public in Ireland who were advised not to wear masks. Remember this, again, from the Irish Times?
Understandably, the risk of infection for healthcare workers is a huge worry for staff and a considerable manpower challenge for the system.
Here in Ireland, HSE lead for infectious diseases Prof Martin Cormican recently reviewed guidelines on mask-wearing for hospital staff and came to the conclusion that there was no evidence to support the wearing of surgical masks by healthcare workers for close patient encounters and staff meetings.
Citing WHO advice, Prof Cormican suggested mask-wearing by people with no symptoms could create unnecessary cost and create “a false sense of security”.
This is the same WHO, incidentally, that Simon Coveney handed 9 million of your euros to last week, just to get some good PR in the days after Donald Trump took the opposite course. In fact, it’s actually good for the Government that the WHO has been so consistently useless and wrong, or else people might question the advice given by Cormican to the nurses.
What was worse about that advice though? The context. The context takes it from “bad, WHO inspired advice” to “downright negligent”:
“Prof Cormican’s updated guidance was sparked by a decision by St James’s Hospital to issue protective equipment more widely to staff working outside intensive care situations where the risk of infection is highest.
The hospital’s advice that staff should wear surgical masks for all patient encounters and meetings between staff where social distancing of at least two metres cannot be maintained has been followed by other hospitals where the workforce had expressed concerns.”
In other words, Irish hospitals were issuing masks to healthcare workers and the Government told them to stop doing that. And they got it wrong – badly wrong.
And now we’re being told that “there’s a change in scientific opinion”. But that’s – forgive the language here, but sometimes strength is required – horseshit.
Here’s the American Periodical, The Week, three weeks ago, writing about facemasks, and the so-called “noble lie”:
“Those of you of a certain age will doubtless remember a time when it was universally acknowledged that wearing masks would not protect you or anyone else from the coronavirus pandemic. By “certain age” here I mean all living Americans born on or before April 1, 2020, which according to my notes is when it became possible to express a contrary position in polite society.
This was always nonsense. The White House is now suggesting that all of us should wear masks whenever we leave our houses.”
That was a month ago, when the White House reversed course and told people to wear masks in public. A month ago. And yet in Ireland, we’re being told that the “scientific opinion is shifting” here in the last week of April.
Professor Cormican’s advice to health staff, incidentally, took place in the same week that the US reversed course. In other words, we’ve had a month of awful advice being issued as standard.
So what scientific opinion underpinned it? Because even the dreadful WHO advice did not say that masks were “ineffective” – it said that people couldn’t be trusted to wear them correctly. The Irish Government took that and went a step further, saying that healthcare workers couldn’t be trusted to wear them correctly.
If that’s true, why are they changing course now? Has there been some big public education campaign about how to wear a mask? Have we all missed it?
No, we haven’t, because it’s not true. The scientific advice around masks hasn’t changed at all. What’s happened is that the Government has gotten this horrendously wrong, and the Irish Times, for some reason, is covering for them.
It’s very important that we subsidise the media, you see, because they’re the ones that hold the people in power to account for their mistakes.
Money well spent, eh?
Here’s a video from the HSE from the end of March, telling healthcare workers not to wear masks. Ireland now has some of the highest rates of infection amongst healthcare workers in the whole world.
What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and when should healthcare workers wear PPE pic.twitter.com/LwIx20gPY8
— HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) (@hpscireland) March 29, 2020