Authorities in the West have been lying about face masks
Early february I realized that authorities were lying. They were lying about something very important.
By lying I really mean lying. Not just misinformation, but lies. They were telling people things they must have known to be untrue.
Why would authorities lie? That will be the subject for another post. In this one we will look at the lies and misinformation. Not the motive.
Let me start by giving some examples of the claims authorities made in Denmark in february. Maybe You can give more examples from other countries in the comment section below. Please, do that.
On their website in a Q&A on the new coronavirus, the Danish health authorities, Sundhedsstyrelsen, wrote the following:
Should one use face masks in eg. airports or when travlling?
No, there is no need to use a face mask in an airport or when travelling, as there is nothing to suggest that face masks actually have en effect on disease transmission
And here is a screenshot I made at the time:
Now of course there was and is plenty to suggest that face masks do indeed have an effect on disease transmission.
For starters, the fact that health personnel and others taking care of infected people use it to protect themselves from infection.
That in itself more than suggests there is an effect on disease transmission.
Furthermore, there is common sense and logic.
A disease of the respiratory system that infects, amongst other ways, through and via the nose and mouth – why in the world would a face mask, that acts as a barrier in front of the nose and mouth, have no impact on disease transmission?
Then of course, there were studies showing an effect. In all fairness, other studies have found litlle or no effect. But at the time this coronavirus was a new disease, so why not take the pratical experience into consideration?
Evidence for the efficacy of face masks mounted. Face masks made not just a difference, but a very big one at that. One preprint study of N95 respirators (filtering face masks) posted February 19, that I quoted on Folkets Avis on the 1. of march, found:
Among 493 medical staffs, zero out of 278 (([doctors+nurse] 56+222) from the N95 group were infected by 2019-nCoV. In stark contrast, 10 out of 213 (77+136) from the no-mask group were confirmed infected (Table 1). Regardless of significantly lowered exposure, the 2019-nCoV infection rate for medical staff was significantly increased in the no-mask group compared to the N95 respirator group (difference: 4.65%, [95% CI: 1.75%-infinite]; P<2.2e-16) (adjusted odds ratio (OR): 464.82, [95% CI: 97.73-infinite]; P<2.2e-16).
Meanwhile, we analyzed the medical staff infection data from Huangmei People’ s Hospital (12 confirmed patients) and Qichun People’ s Hospital (11 confirmed patients) and have observed the similar phenomenon. None of medical staff wearing the N95 respirators and follow frequent routines of disinfection with hand washing were infected by 2019-nCoV.
Now the tight-fitting N95 respirators may well be significantly better at filtering virus particles than for example the cheaper surgical masks, but that does not mean that only respirators will do under all circumstances.
Most any mask will be better than no mask in protecting against an infectious dose of virus.
Shaming the Truth
One thing was the dismissive attitude to face masks from authorities. The weird claim that face masks did nothing to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
But that was not all.
The Danish State Media, DR - Danmarks Radio, was shaming people who did not submit fully to the misinformation provided by authorities.
Not really that surprising that the state media was not critical towards the authorities, but still one could have hoped for at least some journalistic principles or pride. But no.
Danmarks Radio, via a person from the authorities, called a fathter foolish for encouraging his family members to buy face masks. I actually wrote that person, a medical doctor, at the time asking why it was foolish to prepare for the virus.
She never answered my mail.
Here is a screenshot I made at the time of the headline from the article on Danmarks Radio's website.
In the same article another hubristic claim was made:
jeg giver dig helt ret, det lyder tåbeligt. coronavirus smitter ved tæt kontakt og ikke ved almindelig omgang i gadelivet
That claim translated is something along these lines “the new coronavirus does not spread by casual interaction in the street”.
Little more than a month after this claim was made the governemt urged people to stay at home and away from the streets.
It is interesting that both the claim that face masks do not work, and the claim that the virus does not spread by casual interaction in the street, were made with such self-assurance and confidence.
It is obvious that the knowledge about the coronavirus at that stage was still very much forthcoming. So why did they feel they could make such bold and sweeping claims and give so clear cut advice?
Claims that were obviously internally contradicting.
Advice completely dismissing the face masks Asian countries with experience from the first SARS epidemic were already using en masse to fight the novel coronavirus.
Like Asian countries knew nothing and authorities in Western countries knew it all.
This arrogance and overconfidence of Western authorities struck me at the time as being strange. I mentioned it in a video a made back then, it is in Danish though:
Authorities and state media could have at least said they were unsure about face mask, and about the transmission routes of the new coronavirus, etc. But instead they made up ill-advised claims that in turn led to ill-advised mitigation efforts closing down entire societies.
Without face masks the only remedy was social isolation and distancing.
Facing the Truth
Now in spite of authorities’ efforts to mask or conceal the thruth and state medias’ supporting role in this, in fact the truth about face masks has been slowly revealed in most Western countries.
The truth has slowly been unmasked.
Many people in Western countries are now aware that personal protective equipment, including face masks, does in fact work to some extent when used correctly.
That equipment combined with behavioural changes make a difference.
Some are also aware that they have been lied to be authorities. Or at least misinformed in a serious way.
In many countries the authorities now recommend or require citizens to use face masks - even after dismissing them just a few weeks ago.
Not in Denmark though:
5. Should I be wearing a mouth or a face mask?
No, we do not recommend wearing medical mouth or face masks as there is nothing to suggest that using these masks have any effect on virus transmission when worn by healthy individuals going about their daily business.
If everybody took to wearing masks in situations where they are of no use, we risk ending up with a shortage of masks in places where they are essential – specifically in the healthcare and eldercare sectors.
Furthermore, you have to know how to use a mask correctly. To be effective, it has to cover your mouth and your nose, and you have to dispose of it properly. If you use ordinary, simple paper masks, and do not change the mask frequently, you run the risk of the mask becoming too wet, rendering it ineffective. Wearing a mask may therefore lull you into a false sense of security. We also do not recommend that you attempt to either sow or fabricate your own mask.
We recommend that you follow our general advice to the public, which you can read in the section “The Danish Health Authority’s general advice to the Danish population”.
This is still misinformation, it is still paternalistic - but at least there is not much left of the overconfidence.
Maybe You can give some examples from other countries in the comment section below of authorities misinforming about face masks. Please do.