But whatever the reason, mask mandates were a fool’s errand from the start. They may have created a false sense of safety — and thus permission to resume semi-normal life. They did almost nothing to advance safety itself. The Cochrane report ought to be the final nail in this particular coffin.
There’s a final lesson. The last justification for masks is that, even if they proved to be ineffective, they seemed like a relatively low-cost, intuitively effective way of doing something against the virus in the early days of the pandemic. But “do something” is not science, and it shouldn’t have been public policy. And the people who had the courage to say as much deserved to be listened to, not treated with contempt. They may not ever get the apology they deserve, but vindication ought to be enough.
Interestingly, 12 trials in the review, ten in the community and two among healthcare workers, found that wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to influenza-like or Covid-19-like illness transmission. Equally, the review found that masks had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza or SARS-CoV-2 outcomes. Five other trials showed no difference between one type of mask over another.
Let’s begin with the evidence, and the mighty and revered World Health Organization (WHO). As the great Covid fear was getting into its stride, on March 31, 2020, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, Mike Ryan, spoke on the issue.
He said at a briefing in Geneva: ‘There is no specific evidence to suggest the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.’
Summary from The Daily Sceptic:
Mass vaccination mission creep, no rigorous vaccine safety monitoring, counter-terrorism units deployed to crush scientific and social media dissent, major restrictions pursued for political reasons without evidence, expert advisers ignored – just some of the revelations made by Isabel Oakeshott in the Spectator this week. Fresh from co-authoring Matt Hancock’s pandemic diaries, the lockdown-sceptical journalist has written down the “key lessons” she took away from the very revealing writing process she undertook with a man whose approach to the pandemic she vehemently opposes.
All too often, study results were used by experts who dipped into the pandemic – who have now dipped out – to back up positions of certainty. Such dogma led to the breakdown of constructive discussion. Consequently, destructive policies went largely unchallenged.
So we have one more casualty of the Covid 19 pandemic: science. This is based on free, civilised discussion and recognition of the presence and role of uncertainty – the vital ingredients for its progress. Following “the science” was not a potent force for effective policymaking when so much of the “science” was flawed.
UK health and statistics authorities allegedly used 14 inconsistent ways to define fatalities.
Many who died early in the pandemic were never actually tested for the virus while others may have died from something else entirely, according to experts.
…The Oxford study, from 800 freedom of information requests, found some deaths were attributed to Covid just because a care home provider said so and coronavirus was rife.
The report stated: “At the beginning of the pandemic, Public Health England linked data on positive cases to the NHS central register of patients who died.
“This definition meant that a patient who tested positive would be counted as a Covid death even if they were run over by a bus several months later.”
Did official figures overestimate Britain’s grim Covid death toll?
It’s a question that has been asked persistently by medics and members of the public alike almost since the start of the pandemic.
…Last week, in the first of a series of special reports probing the science that has underpinned our pandemic response, The Mail on Sunday set about tackling the ongoing concerns that tests used to diagnose Covid were picking up people who were not actually infected.
The conclusion of some scientists was, yes, they did. And there were those who maintained that despite shortcomings, PCR swabs – used by millions – were accurate enough.
Scientists did not have accurate Covid case numbers, and were unsure of hospitalisation and death rates when they published models suggesting that more than 500,000 people could die if Britain took no action in the first wave of the pandemic, it has emerged.
On March 16 2020, Imperial College published its “Report 9” paper suggesting that failing to take action could overwhelm the NHS within weeks and result in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Before the paper, the UK coronavirus strategy was to flatten the peak rather than suppress the wave, but after the modelling was made public, the Government made a rapid u-turn, which eventually led to lockdown on March 23.
However SPI-M (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling) minutes released to the Telegraph under a Freedom of Information request show that by March 16, modellers were still “uncertain” of case numbers “due to data limitations”.
The minutes show that members were waiting for comprehensive mortality data from Public Health England (PHE) and said that current best estimates for the infection fatality rate, hospitalisation rates, and the number of people needing intensive care were still uncertain.
They also believed that modelling only showed “proof of concept” that lockdowns could help, and warned that “further work would be required”.
Ivor Cummins gives an excellent talk on the history of COVID-19 to Irish Nurses and Mother’s Group.
“There are some scientists who have absolutely loved being media stars for the first time and they don’t want to stop. We don’t hear as much from the paediatricians, disease physicians, academic virologists and the immunologists who really know about these things.” (says Professor Allyson Pollock.)
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said many prominent Covid voices have never written papers on infectious diseases. “It’s like me deciding, ‘I did a course on health and economics a year ago: maybe I should set up a group advising the chancellor on how to manage the tax system.’”
Excess deaths have not been this high since the week ending Feb 19, when 2,182 extra deaths were registered – 18.8 per cent above the pre-2020 five-year average.
Although some of the increase in excess deaths can be explained by the recent rise in deaths involving Covid, most were not linked to the virus.
Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, said: “These excess deaths can’t all be explained by deaths of people who had Covid-19. In the most recent week, for England and Wales there were 1,270 more deaths than the five-year average – that’s 14 per cent higher than that average.
…Deaths in private homes have been well above the 2015-19 average almost every week since April last year. Before Covid, around a quarter of deaths occurred at home but that has since risen to one third, according to research by the King’s Fund.
More than half of Covid hospitalisations are patients who only tested positive after admission, leaked data reveal.
The figures suggest vast numbers are being classed as hospitalised by Covid when they were admitted with other ailments, with the virus picked up by routine testing.
Experts said it meant the national statistics, published daily on the government website and frequently referred to by ministers, may far overstate the levels of pressures on the NHS.
The leaked data – covering all NHS trusts in England – show that, as of last Thursday, just 44 per cent of patients classed as being hospitalised with Covid had tested positive by the time they were admitted.
…Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “This data is incredibly important, and it should be published on an ongoing basis.
“When people hear about hospitalisations with Covid, they will assume that Covid is the likely cause, but this data shows something quite different – this is about Covid being detected after tests were looking for it.”
The open letter states that “a good society cannot be created by an obsessive focus on a single cause of ill-health” and states all restrictions should be lifted in June on the final date in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. Masks should no longer be worn by schoolchildren after May 17, say the scientists – and they warn the damage to society will be too great if the current Covid control measures continue beyond the June roadmap date.
Vaccine passports should also be scrapped along with mass community testing, they say.
Instead, the government should focus on targeted testing, creating better incentives for staying home if ill and basic hygiene measures, such as handwashing and surface cleaning.
Signatories (in alphabetical order)
Professor Ryan Anderson, Translational Science, Medicines Discovery Catapult
Dr Colin Axon, Mechanical Engineering, Brunel University
Professor Anthony Brookes, Genomics and Bioinformatics, University of Leicester
Professor Jackie Cassell, FFPH, Deputy Dean, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Professor Angus Dalgleish, FRCP, FRCPath, FMedSci, Oncology, St George’s, University of London
Professor Robert Dingwall, FAcSS, HonMFPH, Sociology, Nottingham Trent University
Professor Sunetra Gupta, Theoretical Epidemiology, University of Oxford
Professor Carl Heneghan, MRCGP, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, University of Oxford
Professor Mike Hulme, Human Geography, University of Cambridge.
Dr John Lee – formerly Pathology, Hull York Medical School
Professor David Livermore, Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia.
Professor Paul McKeigue Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, University of Edinburgh
Professor David Paton, Industrial Economics, University of Nottingham
Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington, CBE, FRCPath, FRCP (Edin), FMedSci, FRSE, Bacteriology, University of Aberdeen
Dr Gerry Quinn, Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster
Dr Roland Salmon, MRCGP, FFPH, former Director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Wales).
Emeritus Professor John Scott, CBE, FRSA, FBA, FAcSS, Sociology, University of Essex
Professor Karol Sikora, FRCR, FRCP, FFPM, Medicine, University of Buckingham
Professor Ellen Townsend, Psychology, University of Nottingham
Dr Chao Wang, Health & Social Care Statistics, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London,
Professor John Watkins, Epidemiology, Cardiff University
Professor Lisa White, Modelling and Epidemiology, University of Oxford.
In the end, there was no statistically significant difference between those who wore masks and those who did not when it came to being infected by Covid-19. 1.8 per cent of those wearing masks caught Covid, compared to 2.1 per cent of the control group. As a result, it seems that any effect masks have on preventing the spread of the disease in the community is small.
…there is a troubling lack of robust evidence on face masks and Covid-19…The only studies which have shown masks to be effective at stopping airborne diseases have been ‘observational’…But observational studies are prone to recall bias: in the heat of a pandemic, not very many people will recall if and when they used masks and at what distance they kept from others.
Data presented by the Government’s chief advisers to justify a second national lockdown in England has been “mathematically proven” to be incorrect, an Oxford University professor has said.
Death toll forecasts used by the government as grounds for another nationwide lockdown are out-of-date and could be four times too high, experts have said.
A Downing Street press conference led by Boris Johnson on Saturday included data suggesting that England could be seeing up to 4,000 deaths each day by early December.
Dear Prime Minister, Chancellor, CMOs and Chief Scientific Adviser
We are writing with the intention of providing constructive input into the choices with respect to the Covid-19 policy response. We also have several concerns regarding aspects of the existing policy choices that we wish to draw attention to.
In summary, our view is that the existing policy path is inconsistent with the known risk-profile of Covid-19 and should be reconsidered. The unstated objective currently appears to be one of suppression of the virus, until such a time that a vaccine can be deployed. This objective is increasingly unfeasible (notwithstanding our more specific concerns regarding existing policies) and is leading to significant harm across all age groups, which likely offsets any benefits.
Instead, more targeted measures that protect the most vulnerable from Covid, whilst not adversely impacting those not at risk, are more supportable. Given the high proportion of Covid deaths in care homes, these should be a priority. Such targeted measures should be explored as a matter of urgency, as the logical cornerstone of our future strategy.
In addition to this overarching point, we append a set of concerns regarding the existing policy choices, which we hope will be received in the spirit in which they are intended. We are mindful that the current circumstances are challenging, and that all policy decisions are difficult ones. Moreover, many people have sadly lost loved ones to Covid-19 throughout the UK. Nonetheless, the current debate appears unhelpfully polarised around views that Covid is extremely deadly to all (and that large-scale policy interventions are effective); and on the other hand, those who believe Covid poses no risk at all. In light of this, and in order to make choices that increase our prospects of achieving better outcomes in future, we think now is the right time to ‘step back’ and fundamentally reconsider the path forward.
Professor Sunetra Gupta; Professor of theoretical epidemiology, the University of Oxford
Professor Carl Heneghan; Director, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, the University of Oxford
Professor Karol Sikora; Consultant oncologist and Professor of medicine, University of Buckingham
Sam Williams; Director and co-founder of Economic Insight
- ‘Circuit break’ may be a grave error with terrible consequences for the health of the British people and for the health of the country.
- The Government is once again in the grip of doom-mongering scientific modellers who specialise in causing panic.
- The latest reliable data from Spain (up to September 3) which does not indicate any sort of upward curve in infections, let alone one coming to get us here in Britain.
- Anyone with clinical experience of dealing with respiratory viruses knows that the only certainty is uncertainty itself.
- Making comparisons between countries using different national data with different definitions is no more useful than trying to compare apples and pears.
- Latest study shows that nearly a third of all Covid-19 deaths recorded in July and August might have actually been the result of other causes –cancer, for example, or road traffic accidents.
- Sweden has probably suppressed Covid-19 to the same level as Great Britain but without draconian measures.
- Anyone going down with a new respiratory illness is likely to be suffering from a cold – not Covid.
Covid-19 accounts for an average of 11 of the 1,687 deaths in Britain every day, according to official statistics.
|UK deaths per day
|Flu and pneumonia
|Accidents at home
Public Health England has listed 18 areas of intervention with stricter rules
They had only a combined 141 people in hospital as of September 3, NHS shows
One person in hospital for every 38,000 in a population of over 5.4million
Despite an infection rate of more than 120 cases per 100,000 people and local lockdown rules preventing people from meeting anyone they don’t live with, fears about the virus spreading translate to only two people in hospital.