My letter entitled "Sammy Wilson is right: there is no need for compulsory masks in shops" was published today in The Newsletter which is a newspaper in Northern Ireland. The online version is at the link below and a shorter version was included in the newspaper's print edition today as its leading letter. If you cannot access this link, I have included a copy of the letter below. https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/letters/sammy-wilson-right-there-no-need-compulsory-masks-shops-2929727
Sammy Wilson is right: there is no need for compulsory masks in shops
Sammy Wilson MP is 100% correct when he says (July 29) that it would be “absurd for politicians to blackmail the public into wearing face masks” seeing that the current rate of infection with Covid 19 in Northern Ireland is quite low. By Patrick McGinnity
Friday, 31st July 2020
It is now 17 days since there was a Covid 19 related death in Northern Ireland and there are currently only two people in intensive care with the virus.
It simply would not make medical sense to make face masks mandatory in shops now when we were advised against wearing them at the height of the problem.
Health Minister Robin Swann claims “The medical and scientific case has become increasingly compelling” for wearing face masks. But he does not offer any evidence of randomised controlled trials that have been carried out to support his claim.
The Editor in Chief of Evidence Based Medicine in The British Medical Journal, Professor Carl Heneghan, does not appear to agree with Mr Swann. In an interview on July 18, Prof Heneghan said: “By all means people can wear masks or not wear masks, policy can make the decision, but what they can’t do is say it’s an evidence based decision.”
Mr Swann’s view is also directly contradicted by the Dutch Minister for Medical Care, Tamara van Ark. In a press briefing on Wednesday, Ms Van Ark said: “Because from a medical perspective there is no proven effectiveness of masks, the Cabinet has decided that there will be no national obligation for wearing non-medical masks.” Masks are currently required only on public transport in Holland and in airports.
At a press conference In Stockholm on Tuesday, Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters: “With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport.”
But the numbers of cases and deaths in Northern Ireland are lower than in Sweden and Holland. So why are such draconian measures potentially being considered here when medical experts in these countries say they are clearly unwarranted?
Indeed it is not too long ago that Minister Swann was raising concerns himself about face masks being worn by the general public. On April 28, he said: “One thing that would concern us is that face coverings actually lead to a false sense of security and we could see other measures with regards to good hand hygiene, social distancing start to become less prevalent.”
During a BBC interview in March, UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, outlined that mask wearing can do more harm than good. She said: “In fact you can actually trap the virus in the mask and then start breathing in.”
Her fellow UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer Johnathon Van Tam went further at a Downing Street press conference on April 3 and claimed: “There is no evidence that general wearing of face masks by the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society.” He went on to say “In terms of the hard evidence and what the UK government recommends, we do not recommend face masks for general wearing by the public.”
But the UK government has now back–tracked on this advice and has made face masks mandatory in shops in England. Why did it do this, when its own scientific advisers have repeatedly advised against such a move?
The answer to this riddle appears to have been given on July 12 by Deborah Cohen, the medical correspondent of BBC Newsnight. Ms Cohen claimed that the World Health Organisation reversed its advice against wearing masks because of political lobbying. She stated on Twitter: “We had been told by various sources the WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying.” Ms Cohen went on to claim that the BBC challenged the World Health Organisation over this claim and they did not deny it.
So it appears that governments have decided to enforce new mandatory mask wearing laws based on advice from the World Health Organisation, which itself does not believe there is sufficient medical evidence to support their use, but has nevertheless caved in to political pressure.
So who is putting this political pressure on the World Health Organisation? They say that whoever who pays the piper calls the tune and the pharmaceutical industry funds the World Health Organisation very handsomely. Could it be that this political lobbying of the WHO to advise making face masks mandatory was carried out by the pharmaceutical industry? If, as Deborah Cohen of BBC Newsnight states “the WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks”, then did they go against their own committee findings because they know on which side their bread is buttered?
After all, the virus has practically disappeared from Northern Ireland, so there is no medical basis for making masks mandatory. But masks help to maintain the fear and there is a huge financial incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to keep the public in a state of fear, so that when they roll out the Covid 19 vaccine, a fear — ridden public will view it as a God–send. It certainly will be a God–send to Big Pharma, who stand to make gigantic profits from this very rushed and inadequately tested vaccine.
Patrick McGinnity, Veterinary Surgeon, Armagh