C: YouTube (screenshot)

WHO appoints British academic who said face masks should ‘continue forever’ as chair of advisory board

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appointed Susan Michie, a British academic, professor of health psychology and clinical psychologist who made headlines for saying that face masks should remain in place ‘forever’, to a key advisory board.

Professor Michie, who is the director of The Centre for Behavioural Change and heads the Health Psychology Research Group at University College London, is now chair of the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health. The UCL academic is also a decades-long member of the Communist Party of Britain. 

Prof Michie is also on record calling for other measures including social distancing to remain in place “long term”.  

In comments made in 2021, Ms Michie, a regular contributor to the BBC and ITV, said that such measures would “probably be good not only for Covid but to reduce other diseases”. 

Prof Michie, who has been a member of the Communist Party for more than 40 years, hit the headlines last year when she pushed for tough Covid-19 restrictions on life in the UK, advocating for “maximum suppression” of the virus around the world. 

Because of her position as a member of a sub-group for the UK Government’s SAGE Advisory Board, she was a frequent contributor to conversations regarding Covid-19 restrictions. Prof Richie said that alongside vaccines, NHS test and trace, and border controls, ‘people’s behaviour’ was a crucial factor in controlling Covid. SAGE as well as Independent SAGE came in for criticism for an over-reliance on modelling, which were proven repeatedly to be wrong, when recommending the Government enforce Covid restrictions. 

The SAGE scientist told Channel 5 last June: “That is the behaviour of social distancing when you’re indoors, making sure there’s good ventilation or if it’s not, wearing face masks, of hands and surface hygiene. We will need to keep this going in the long term and that will be good not only for Covid, but also to reduce others diseases”.

When she was asked a follow-up question grilling her on how long she believed measures should remain in place, she said: “I think forever, to some extent.”

When asked whether or not she thought the proposal was realistic, she responded: “I think there’s lots of different behaviours we’ve changed in our lives. We now routinely wear seat belts, we didn’t used to.

“We now routinely pick up dog poo in the parks, we didn’t used to. When people see that there is a threat and there is something they can do to reduce that… [to] themselves, their loved ones and their communities, what we see now over this last year is people do that.”

She suggested that in future, people would check they had a facemask on them when they left the house in the same way they made a conscious effort to remember their phone and keys.

“It’s not going to be a huge big deal, the kind of changes we’re talking about,” she said.

Prof Michie’s appointment triggered some pushback online. On Twitter, one user said in response: “It really is time for the UK to pull all funding from this pointless organisation”.

Another Twitter user, expressing frustration at the appointment, said: “I thought the WHO was an appalling discredited organisation before this announcement. It is now even worse if that was possible!”

Another added: “What could go wrong???”

While one social media user, highlighting Michie’s membership of the Communist Party, added: “Long term UK Communist party sympathiser. What happened to sovereignty?”

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