Credit: Allyson Pollock

Top doc on RTÉ: “No evidence” masks effective in communities

A top UK doctor and public health consultant told an RTÉ panel that “we have no evidence of the effectiveness of masks in a community setting,” and said that masks have been rolled out without proper evaluation.

Dr. Allyson Pollock, who was formerly the Director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, was asked during an RTÉ discussion about the UK government’s recent announcement that they would be ending all requirements to wear masks in public settings.

“Do you think it is premature to remove mandatory mask wearing for somewhere like the tube in London?” asked presenter Miriam O’Callaghan.

“Well, it may well make sense to wear masks in overcrowded spaces, and of course in healthcare settings,” replied Dr. Pollock.

“But the reality is that the public are now not complying with mask-wearing on the whole, and the public are ahead [of politicians]. They tend to drive the policy changes. And one of the problems is we’ve rolled out these interventions without having done the proper evaluations.”

Dr. Pollock went on to assert that children in the UK had been required to wear masks despite a dearth of evidence to support the practice.

“So, for example,” she said, “we pushed children into wearing masks at schools without consulting them and without good research. And so this is really quite shocking, because if this was a medicine or a vaccine, we would have done the proper studies and evaluated it.

“We have to remember that, like testing, masks do harm as well as good. And so it’s really important that we understand both the harms and the benefits of mask-wearing and really monitor it.”

Dr. Pollock stated that there is “no evidence” of the effectiveness of masks in a community setting, and that the general public were making a judgement for themselves on the issue.

“So we’ve really got no evidence about the effectiveness of masks and how they’re worn in community settings,” she said.

“Of course we do have evidence in healthcare settings with different types of masks. But actually we don’t have good evidence and good evaluations [of community masks]. The reality is the public are making up their own minds, so they’re ahead of the politicians in this,” she concluded.

Trinity College immunologist Kingston Mills replied with a different perspective.

“With all due respect,” he said, “there wasn’t time to do studies to figure out whether mask wearing was beneficial or not. It was a decision that most countries in the world took, and it was a prudent decision and it’s proven to be quite effective at stopping the spread in indoor settings. So I don’t think there was any great need to wait six months to see if they worked before we implemented them.”

However, numerous states in the US, including Texas and Florida, have now ended all mask mandates, and seen no significant increase in cases, hospitalisations or deaths as a consequence.

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