Lib Dems attack ministers on Covid as Ed Davey urges beefed up Plan B

Today’s i newspaper features Sir Ed Davey’s call for the government to bring in a beefed up version of Plan B as a matter of urgency to avoid a winter lockdown. Daisy Cooper also criticises the new Minister for Vaccines and Public Health for keeping a low profile. In the Commons yesterday, Layla Moran challenged the government on whether it is operating a policy of herd immunity.

The Plan B Plus would make face masks mandatory, people would be instructed to work from home and social distancing rules would be reimposed. It would not include Covid passports which the Lib Dems oppose.

Ed Davey said:

Parents are terrified that their children will be forced to lose more school and NHS trusts are nervous about the number of beds and staff. I fear that measures are needed now to prevent a crisis that our economy and our communities cannot afford.

The lights on the dashboard are all blinking red and the government seems to be asleep at the wheel once again.

I fear we are back to where we were in spring and autumn 2020, a government paralysed by incompetence, indifference and indecision leading the country into an inevitable lockdown.

Clearly, we need a proper report which outlines whether further emergency measures are needed now.

Also in the i, Daisy Cooper criticises the new Minister for Vaccines and Public Health, Maggie Throup for keeping a low profile at a “vital time”:

As coronavirus steals the headlines leaving families worried about a fourth wave this winter, the Vaccines Minister is nowhere to be seen.

This is the worst possible time for the minister to go missing from the media.

At this vital time, the public have got urgent questions that need answering about the booster and school jab rollout, yet the minister’s silence is deafening.

In the Commons yesterday, Layla Loran asked whether the government’s plan is herd immunity:

Just yesterday, the Italian Prime Minister pointed at this country as an example of what not to do. We are now such an embarrassment that we are encouraging people elsewhere to follow the rules. Meanwhile, Government sources are this morning briefing that the approach the Government are taking is tantamount to herd immunity. We all know how we feel about Government sources, so can the Minister be clear: is herd immunity the plan? If it is not, what is?

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup did not answer the question:

I am disappointed in the hon. Lady’s approach, because we have led the way not only in vaccines, sourcing them very early on, but in antivirals. It is fantastic news that we were first with vaccines and that, through the Prime Minister’s setting up the antivirals taskforce, we now have the opportunity of some antiviral tablets as well, which will make a huge, huge difference. We are continuing to lead the world.

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  • Jason Connor 22nd Oct '21 - 2:33pm

    The Minister is right about the vaccines programme. It has been hugely successful and I had my booster a week ago. But the government must make mask wearing indoors shops and public transport mandatory again except for medical exemptions and more reminders on hand washing are needed. This is the easiest thing they can do to avoid a full lockdown. Cases are rising fast since the mask wearing has been massively reduced. I would also welcome vaccine passports and can’t wait to get mine. It’s highly liberal to use instruments that keep people safe and avoid the risk of hospitalisation.

  • George Thomas 22nd Oct '21 - 2:50pm

    I suppose the health argument against vaccine passports is that it potentially makes it more likely that people avoid restaurants etc. and mix indoors in private settings without good ventilation or distancing. If we can save money on avoiding these passports and use it to fund checks on private companies and public buildings in terms of enforcing mask wearing and ventilation then I can see the sense in it.

    I do think it needs to be explained properly though. LD’s arguing that vaccine passports shouldn’t be brought in isn’t a hundred miles from Tories casting doubt over facemasks and distancing and any perceived inconsistency does chip away at public’s confidence in the need to go hard and early.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Oct '21 - 2:59pm

    This is good, but as per colleagues, it is not enough.

    it is interesting, how my article on here this week, calling for more, has had different responses. It seems the Harm principle of Mill ought to be far more read, and thoughts of it, at the heart of our members and members of parliament!

  • Peter Martin 22nd Oct '21 - 7:26pm

    If the new plan B doesn’t include vaccine passports it will be Plan B MINUS!

    Passports will encourage the take up of available vaccines. Compulsory mask wearing won’t. It’s not that difficult.

  • John Marriott 23rd Oct '21 - 11:39am

    The problem with bringing back restrictions again, even minor ones, is the attitude of refuseniks who are either gullible or think they are immortal, or probably a combination of both with a sprinkling of hubris.

  • Jason Connor 23rd Oct '21 - 2:19pm

    That’s not the point about compulsory mask wearing it’s not their purpose. They have proved to be effective in protecting others, what social liberalism is all about and I wouldn’t dream of going on transport in shops etc without wearing one. Vaccine passports add to the mix and now I have the 3 jabs including booster I really want one.

  • John Marriott 23rd Oct '21 - 5:55pm

    The new Vaccines Minister, a certain Ms Maggie Throup (“Maggie Who?” I hear you ask) is an interesting character. When I used regularly to watch PMQ’s pre Covid she could most Wednesdays be seen seated next to fellow MP, Nigel Huddleston (our local boy made good), attentively listening and, thanks to the regular camera angle, positioned more or less next to the PM’s nose as part of the backdrop of adoring followers. Well, both appear to have been rewarded for their consistency in sitting in the same seats every PMQs with promotion, in the case of Mr Huddleston to the exalted position of Sports Minister. Neither has so far pulled up many trees. Ms Throup does at least have a background in science, as a ‘biomedical scientist’, whatever that is, so she might just know a bit about vaccines, whereas Nigel’s qualification for his current ministerial post, before he became an MP, was as a financial consultant in the USA, after going up to Oxford from one of our local comprehensives.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Oct '21 - 8:24pm

    Up to the last month, it was good not to have someone getting under the wheels of my wheelchair. It is intimidating trying to make sure I remain at a decent distance from other’s this distancing thing went out of the window as masks were reduced. Buses became more crowded as so called normality returned. I was waiting in a shop queue and someone wanted to pass me in the very narrow space.
    Iv’e tried to keep the distance from others but this was not going to be allowed to happen. Actually, as I said it felt a good idea.
    By the way, the lady commented, I should not be out if I can’t get close to other’s.

  • George Thomas 22nd Oct ’21 – 2:50pm:
    …Tories casting doubt over facemasks and distancing and any perceived inconsistency does chip away at public’s confidence…

    It was the medical establishment (WHO, US CDC, SAGE, UK CMO, etc.) who first cast doubts over face masks, causing confusion and cynicism about their efficacy…

    ‘Coronavirus: Chief medical officer tells public not to wear masks’ [March 2020]:

    Chris Whitty instead advises people to regularly wash their hands

    ‘Coronavirus epidemic ‘far from over’ in Asia-Pacific, WHO warns’ [May 2020]:

    The WHO said people should use face masks only if they are sick or caring for someone who is sick: “There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly,” the WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan said.

    ‘Ministers have struggled to wear a mask. Do they think it makes them look weak?’ [July 2020]:

    Professor Whitty: “Our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all.” Matt Hancock: “A front door is better than any face mask.” Dr Jenny Harries: “You can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 1:15am

    Mask wearing is a nonsense especially those that the public have been issued with (or rather purchased). A beefed up Plan B, C or D will not win me back to the Liberal Democrats. When did public health authoritarianism become the new mission of the Party? Isn’t it time to drop the name Liberal from the Party Logo? It would be more honest.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct '21 - 8:35am

    @Martin Frost
    “Mask wearing is a nonsense especially those that the public have been issued with (or rather purchased)”

    My clear understanding (from a medic with experience of dealing with Covid patients) is that a well-fitting surgical mask (FFP2 or above) does offer some protection to others and a well-fitting FFP3 mask is needed to give you protection from others carrying the virus.

    Do you have some fundamantal objection to doing something which could protect others if you just happened to be carrying the virus?

    I would agree that a great many masks bought here are not up to FFP2 standard. But isn’t that because the ‘government’ didn’t issue clear instructions about what sort of masks would give some protection to others and/or to oneself (or even orders about what sort of masks could be sold as giving some protection – once supplies had improved)?

    The mask purchase and wearing issue seemed to have been reduced to a cynical commercial fashion marketing opportunity instead of being treated as a serious public health issue.

    Personally I’ll keep on using a mask (FFP2) when going into public indoor spaces such as shops until I – me, myself, I – am satisfied that I no longer need to do so.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 10:03am

    Mask wearing is a comfort blanklet and an instrument of social control. The best study commissioned so far in Denmark showed no difference in Covid infection rates between mask wearers and non mask wearers. The evidence that surgical masks offer significant protection is patchy at best. This position was fully in line with 10 years of WHO and Government advice that got turned on its head overnight without explanation. If the evidence for masks is so strong, why has the change of policy never been properly explained? I will only wear a muzzle if I am forced to. It is not a minor inconvenience for me.

  • John Marriott 24th Oct '21 - 10:28am

    @Martin Frost
    Mask wearing “a comfort blanket”? So, is that why a surgeon and his staff wear one in the operating theatre? “A muzzle”? OK, well I can put up with being muzzled if it helps to stop me infecting other people.

    Yes, Mr Frost, I’m one of those enslaved wimps who carry on wearing a mask in confined spaces. By the way, you aren’t related to a certain David FROST, are you? Now HE knows how to stick up for LIBERTY!

  • Peter Martin 24th Oct '21 - 10:48am

    @ Martin Frost,

    You sound to be one who have definite ideas of the what the science of mask wearing should be but are shy of giving references to peer reviewed studies to support them. Some vague allusion to something supposedly done in Denmark is hardly that.

    Furthermore you’re mistakenly assuming that the protection is only for the benefit of the mask wearer. What about the protection of others from possible viruses carried by the wearer?

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 11:36am

    What is so alarming to me is how ill informed people are about mask wearing. If you want to find out about the Danish mask study google it or even the C4 fact checker on the subject of masks. It is obvious from the comments above that you have not done any research of your own. If there was definitive evidence that masks were effective I would take a different view. The Lib Dem attitude reminds me the old Focus cartoon of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. If it helps LBC’s Majid Nawaz has issued a tweet recently with links to the studies casting doubt of mask effectiveness. Stop being so lazy. Do your own research or are you like are old friend the ostrich?

  • @Martin

    Seems to me you need to look at the references and links you refer to yourself

    ” which “concluded that wearing a mask may make little or no difference to the prevention of influenza-like illness […] or laboratory confirmed illness”.” but ” that seem to show masks are helpful at reducing the spread of disease.”

    “Dr Julian Tang, honorary associate professor in the department of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester,” “There is, he says, “definite physical evidence that masks both contain aerosols produced by an infected person, as well as blocking incoming aerosols when worn by a susceptible person”.

    (Aerosols are particles or droplets that hang in the air. In the right conditions, they can transmit respiratory viruses between people.)”

    “Dr Tang points us to several studies that demonstrate the use of masks against various viruses, and one conducted in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic that found even a single-layer cloth mask blocked 51 per cent of the particles from a lab-simulated cough. and

    Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told FactCheck: “I do think that the evidence does support use of face coverings. But the impact is probably not huge”.
    He pointed us to a 2020 paper he co-authored, which concluded that “wearing face masks may reduce primary respiratory infection risk probably by 6–15%.” The article also notes that “COVID-19-specific studies are required.”

    A pre-print (not yet peer-reviewed) study from UK researchers found that “a stricter mask-wearing policy”, by which they mean “mandatory in most or all shared/public spaces”, reduced the R number by 12 per cent.”

    You asked us to read your links, I read them, and the evidence suggests that wearing masks reduces transmission by those infected with Covid.
    So mandatory wearing of face masks in certain settings along with other social distancing measures in place like 2m rule and wfh, taking these measures in place with one another all have a positive effect on the epidemiology of the virus and can contribute towards us getting out of this current public health crisis that we are facing.

    So what is your point???

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 12:43pm

    Matt – Quoting the TV pundits is not evidence. Put it another way show me your evidence (definitive studies ) that mask wearing is having a material impact on reducing the spread of Covid?. The examples you quote are hardly that. If such evidence actually existed we would certainly have heard about it by now. Please exclude mini surveys, scientific opinion and quotes from facebook funded fact checkers which only push one line. The evidence please. If it has a marginal impact – which is the best the pro mask lobby can claim, How much difference has it made? Why did WHO change its advice overnight which basically said that masks were useless? ( pressure from Governments actually) Why does Sweden and Denmark discourage their use? ( it mitigates against social distancing). Why do people naively believe that a dirty paper mask will save them from infection? If the vaccines work we shouldn’t be trying to do that anyway. My point is that the Lib Dems are blindly following the “received wisdom” without any solid evidence base. Their default position is to shut down debate. That is why for me at least the Party is no longer ideologically credibile and should not be using Liberal in its title. It is dishonest.

  • Peter Martin 24th Oct '21 - 1:10pm

    Martin Frost,

    “If you want to find out about the Danish mask study google it…”

    Can I suggest that you read though one or two real papers and articles written by real scientists? You are unlikely to see any reference to the reader having to Google anything or a suggestion that the links or references can be found by searching for what someone else may have written on Twitter.

    If you don’t understand how to cut and paste a link then I’d be surprised if you are capable of understanding the complexities of the arguments re protecting public health during this serious pandemic.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 2:24pm

    Peter Martin’s ‘ “real scientists” are the ones who agree with his opinion. Open your mind up instead of throwing childish insults.

  • Martin Frost: I trust you are aware of a core belief of Liberals? “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”
    You may not agree that masks do prevent or reduce harm. But it is not illiberal to bring in measures with the goal of protecting health. So no, we don’t need to change the name of the party, thank you.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 5:28pm

    Cassie – but you are harming others. Are you oblivious to the collateral damage being done in terms of managing other health conditions and economic and social hardship? The Human Rights let out clause for health emergencies ( inspired by the Spanish flu of 1918) was intended as a stop gap not a new way of life. Once you go down the Plan B route we will be back in lockdown before you know it. Please can somebody explain to me how current policies in this area can be described in any respect as Liberal?

  • Martin, you are missing my point. I am not arguing for or against the specific public health measure you are so fiercely opposed to. I am saying that bringing in any given public health measure is not ‘authoritarian’, or ‘social control’ or ‘illiberal’ if the sole reason for bringing it in is to prevent harm to others.
    So you can (as you have) argue that the measure is wrong, or counter-productive, or doesn’t work.
    But if the sole aim of it is to prevent harm, then it is not illiberal.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 6:15pm

    So what you are saying Cassie is that if the intentions are well-meaning (even if misguided) then it is OK? Didn’t Mao think it a similar way? Iam sorry but I can not square coercion with Liberal principles. We are no longer in a emergency situation and have not been since the vaccines were rolled out. Is it really about saving lives any more or protecting vested interests?

  • @Martin

    You asked me to google c4 fact checker on masks, so I did. I presented you with the information that it contains and the links it provides.
    How is it you only read the parts that you agree with and chose to ignore what it says in its entirety?

    Lets try this another way.

    If half the scientific community said that masks made none or marginal difference
    and the other half of the scientific community said that masks can limit the spread of covid and make a significant difference to the epidemiology. The scientific community are 50/50 spilt, then whom should the Government follow?

    I know what I would chose If I had to take a gamble because I was making decisions on public health….

    The evidence as far as I can read clearly states that masks can limit the amount of virus particles an infected person in sheading, so as far as I am concerned its a no brainer. In enclose public spaces, masks need to be worn.

    There are millions of sick and vulnerable people and their families trying to navigate this world right now and keep themselves safe, if you do not think ALL of a society has a part to play in order to make that happen, then I am sorry, I fail to see how you can call yourself a Liberal.
    Maybe you need to think what it means to be a liberal before telling others they need to drop the line.

    Covid has not gone away, Vaccines have not gotten us out of this “yet” the NHS is a mess with waiting lists soaring by the month and sick patients in hospital who are already vulnerable at severe risk of even catching a “mild” disease.

    I am sure your stance on covid is lapped up on conservative home, im not sure it will be as welcomed with open arms on here

  • Martin, I can only suggest you look at the figures for the UK re Covid cases and deaths. The UK is getting close to your emergency situation again, in spite of the vaccines programme. I have no idea what vested interests you think benefit from people wearing masks on trains/in shops. But it is very much about not overwhelming the NHS, which is already on its knees from the pandemic. And trying to avoid the need for further lockdowns, which absolutely no one wants.
    Lastly from me: if you cannot square Mill’s Harm Principle, then it looks as though you, like many, confuse Liberal with Libertarian. And we are not the Libertarian Democrats.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Oct '21 - 7:17pm

    “we are not the Libertarian Democrats.”

  • @cassie.

    well said, thirded 🙂

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 8:25pm

    None of you are libertarians but there is very little difference if any, between the Lib Dems current approach to Covid and views you would find expressed in any socialist forum including those of the far left. I mentioned the C4 link because it refers to the Danish survey. However, the channel has broadly adopted a zero covid position i.e. those who perpetrate the myth that the virus can be eradicated. How short peoples’ memories are. Dr Jennie Harries and Chris Whitty have both cast doubt on the effectiveness of face masks along with the WHO. There is absolutely no proof that they are effective and a quite a lot of information to suggest that they are counter productive. Jennie Harries has recently downgraded Covid as no longer the greatest threat to the NHS this winter. You can not run a health system on the basis of prioritising one virus over everything else. Infections are on the rise? Yes but locking down the country again is not the solution. Unlike the rest of you I still have faith in the vaccines. Vested interests? A lot of people and organisations have done very well out of the pandemic, although not the poor or vulnerable members of the community who are unable to work from home. A final plea to you as Liberals – listen to both sides of the argument before you jump to conclusions. Not everyone who challenges lockdown orthodoxy is a rabid right winger. This is where you really have lost sight of your liberalism
    I will leave you to your comfort zones and echo chambers. You are clearly not interested in proper debate. The fact remains that neither Labour or the Lib Dems offer any way out

  • @Martin

    Yet again another person who is against lockdowns and yet is the only one talking about them. Show me where on this thread or the one written by my good friend Lorenzo “The elephant in the room” has any who identify as liberal calling for a “lockdown”??
    Calling for mandated masks or wfh or even covid passports is not lockdown….These measures together along with getting more jabs and boosters in arms can have a significant impact on the epidemiology of the virus, thus saving lives of not only covid patients, but the 10’s of thousands of people who are in hospital at the moment “not with covid” but are extremely vulnerable right now were they to catch even a mild disease.
    It would also relieve pressure on the NHS in order to get through the ever rising backlog of people awaiting live saving / changing treatment.

    “I will leave you to your comfort zones and echo chambers. You are clearly not interested in proper debate.” And yet ironically you have not come here to debate or engage, you have come here to vent, I am more than happy to get into a debate with anyone and discuss any scientific papers and researches available to us should they bother to go to the trouble to post them and yet I notice you did not.

    During any National Crisis, Public health emergency, I like to hear the views of everyone, be they from the left right, centre, social, Liberal or Conservative and indeed believe in times like these Governments should be working cross parties to solve the crisis and yet it seems to me from your posting the impression I get is that anything that isnt conservative seems like a dirty word to you

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 9:06pm

    I am more than happy to get into a debate with anyone and discuss any scientific papers and researches available to us should they bother to go to the trouble to post them and yet I notice you did not”. Glad you have an open mind. You will find plenty of research studies in these links.
    Please make sure you watch the Anders Tegnell’s podcasts.

  • @Martin

    I said scientific papers and research. As in something with credibility and preferably peer reviewed. What you have posted there is neither and an opinion piece.

    Can you do better???

  • Cassie “But if the sole aim of it is to prevent harm, then it is not illiberal.”

    That is just not correct at all, as what you are saying is if something is done with the aim of protecting people then it is liberal?

    Except it isn’t. Preventing harm to others is only a pre-requisite for state intervention but it doesn’t justify it by itself. We opposed Blair’s anti-terror legislation which was in theory designed to protect people but was authoritarian and ineffective.

    A lot of Covid measures are the same – authoritian and not proven to work. They are as un-libertarian as you can get so being against them doesn’t make you a libertarian.

  • @Martin

    It might be helpful if you “truly” do wish to engage in debate.
    Pick the article you wish to discuss and reference the points you wish to make and I will make a point of reading it, researching it myself and coming back with a response / opinion.
    Simply posting a link that contains a website with a load of waffle and “podcasts” is not debate in my opinion.

    Like I said, I am more than happy to engage, as I am sure others on here are also, after all that is what we liberals do.

    If you post a specific link and the arguments you wish to present from the article I will look forward to responding to you

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 9:53pm

    Sorry Matt I am too busy to spoon feed you. If you are too lazy to go through the materials I really can not help you. I did not realise I was communicating with a teenager.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 9:57pm

    Going back to the mask debate. Peter Hitchens is always good value and he includes links to the reports he quotes. Happy reading.

  • Peter Watson 24th Oct '21 - 10:21pm

    I wear a mask in public places (and put up with steamy spectacles!).
    Reading the above discussion, there seems to be a consensus that masks make a difference to transmitting and catching covid but it might be small.
    Not considered in the discussion is the environmental impact of mask-wearing, especially disposable masks, manufacturing them, importing them from China, and then disposing of them.
    Is there evidence that the benefits of using masks outweigh the harm?

  • @Martin

    If you are going to take that tone with me, my engagement ends here.

    You claimed you wanted to come here to debate and I have accepted to have that with you.
    I have not accepted that you post a link to a website with waffle and expect me to trawl through it.

    If you wat to debate something, provide a link to the subject matter you want to discuss and present your arguments and I am more than happy to engage with you.

    As far as the mask issue is concerned, We have discussed this already and as pointed out to you previously the wearing of masks is about infected people exhaling “less” virus particles into the air rather than protecting the wearer, though FFP3 does give some degree of protection to the wearer.
    Even the study you linked to clearly states
    ” Reduction in release of virus from infected persons into the environment may be the mechanism for mitigation of transmission in communities where mask use is common or mandated, as noted in observational studies.”

    Earlier in our engagements I linked you to studies that showed the effectiveness of masks.
    Would you like to try another topic, or do you wish to continue with this one??? But if you cannot afford me the civility I give you, then please do not bother as I have more pressing things to be getting on with 🙂

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 10:28pm

    Matt, It is clear from your huffing and puffing that you are not remotely interested in any discussion that contradicts your version of the truth. So no I am not interested in debating with you and can only advise you to broaden your horizons by reading a bit more, beginning with the links that you have been provided with. I suggest you (and I) now take a back seat and let others join the discussion.

  • @Martin

    No huffing and puffing here, just pointing out the reality of your postings and the rudeness that you afforded me that I feel was unwarranted. But Hey Ho, enjoy the rest of your evening.

    Moving on

    @Peter Watson

    I am also concerned about the environmental impact of mask use.
    It amazed me today coming out of the hospital seeing just how many people ripped their face mask off as soon as exiting the building and just throwing them on the floor, however, just because a minority of people cannot behave responsibly and do the right thing and dispose of them in a bin, is not an reason to not have them.
    If we took the view we should not make something as “some” people cannot dispose of the waste properly, I would never get to eat a packet of Prawn cocktail crisps again.

    I am also concerned about our over-reliance on China for cheap PPE but also the wasted billions in substandard products that had to be thrown out.
    The lessons we must learn from this pandemic is that we must manufacture more in this country rather than relying on cheap imports from other countries, especially when it comes to medical supplies. It is not going to be a matter of “if” the next pandemic arrives, but when.

    “Is there evidence that the benefits of using masks outweigh the harm?”
    “The study looked at Australian households, was not done during a pandemic, and was done without any enforcement of compliance. It found that “in an adjusted analysis of compliant subjects, masks as a group had protective efficacy in excess of 80% against clinical influenza-like illness.”
    “The available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of nonmedical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures, could successfully reduce Re to below 1, thereby reducing community spread if such measures are sustained.”

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct '21 - 11:46pm

    Martin – The Danish study really is the most definitive study to date on mask wearing. It was commissioned by pro-maskers but the evidence reached the opposite conclusion. The face masks that most people use in the UK could not possibly stop the spread of Covid.
    What would I propose instead?
    • Focussed protection of the vulnerable combined with the vaccines is now a realistic option.
    • ICU capacity needs to be strengthened or at last temporarily patched up
    • Urgent action is needed to keep Covid out of hospitals and care homes, it is still a major problem.
    • Test and trace resource should be redirected to support our wider health infrastructure.
    In the longer term, we should follow South Korea’s example. Its health system was teetering on the brink a few years ago just like our own but in contrast to the UK they grasped the nettle of reform.
    There are probably other ideas. This approach is better than relying on futile and ultimately self-defeating gestures as mask wearing and societal lockdown.

  • “Focussed protection of the vulnerable combined with the vaccines is now a realistic option.”
    could you please tell us what this entails as you are talking about a 1/4 of the population when you take into account households that have a clinically vulnerable person living with other members from the entire house and thus needs to be a part of the focused protection.

    “ICU capacity needs to be strengthened or at last temporarily patched up” again please tell us how this should be done, with the current staffing crisis, we do not have the dr’s and nurses available to open up some of these beds, many have covid and or are self-isolating.

    “Urgent action is needed to keep Covid out of hospitals and care homes, it is still a major problem.” Yes ideally that would be great, however, its easier said than done in practice. With Large amounts of covid in community and hospitals, how do you stop the spread from one ward to another? this is a highly transmissible airborne virus and with the amount of movement in hospitals, it is near on impossible.

    And as for care homes, care staff are using 20 minute lateral flow tests, however, these are not entirely reliable, my sisters test kept coming up negative for days, despite her feeling ill but thought it was exhaustion due to pulling multiple double shifts, on the 4th day she finally threw up a positive test and only then was sent for a PCR test that confirmed positive. It was too late then, many of the staff and resident were already infected by then and sadly some were lost.

    And Martin according to you Masks are useless and dont work anyway, so how are care home staff supposed to look after vulnerable residents in care homes if there are high levels of covid in the community…are the care home staff supposed to be put into focused protection as well and keep away from other people and their family members???

  • Martin P Frost 25th Oct '21 - 12:51am

    Ok this is my last comment so please do not expect any further replies. I have more or less used up my quota and have to wait 15 mins or so before being physically able to post a comment. Focussed protection for ¼ of the population would only have been needed prior to the vaccine roll out. The figures for those seriously at risk is now considerably lower and it is still a better option than seeking to protect the whole population. When the crisis started, large numbers of retired doctors and nurses volunteered to help out. What happened to them? I think we also need to look again at how long medical workers,who have been pinged, should be expected to stay off work. I am pleased that there is an admission about Covid spread in hospital and care homes. Staff wear surgical masks so it is clearly not offering sufficient protection. Every effort should be taken to keep Covid out of those locations. Perhaps that is where the researchers should be concentrating their attention rather than on the need for general mask wearing and societal lockdowns? Yes I do expect care workers to make sacrifices over and above what I would expect of an ordinary working family. However, they should be financially compensated until the crisis is over. The crisis will never be over until we start getting smarter about our mitigation measures rather than resorting to a sledgehammer approach with all of the collateral damage it entails. There is no excuse for not seeking to strengthen ICU capacity. The NHS should have been working on this problem from March 2020 onwards.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th Oct '21 - 5:49am

    This is a link to a German study, showing some of the harmful effects of mask wearing.

    As far as I can see, this is an authentic scientific study

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 8:55am

    Final comment from me. Focussed protection would be needed for a much lower number of people now that we have the vaccines not 1/4 of the population. It is a more practical option than shutting down the country again. Extra sacrifices for health workers ? Yes provided they are adequately compensated. On shortages of doctors and nurses , there was never a concerted effort to bring back the retirees. We should also look at reducing the isolation period for asymptomatic workers. Masks are not keeping Covid out of hospitals and care homes , that is where additiomal infection prevention measures should be concentrated. Latest news is that Govt modellers are predicting a substantial fall in infections in November. Lets hope they have got their sums right for a change.

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Oct '21 - 9:03am

    @Martin Frost
    “It is a more practical option than shutting down the country again.”

    I thought this discussion was about AVOIDING shutting the country down again.

    After all “Today’s i newspaper features Sir Ed Davey’s call for the government to bring in a beefed up version of Plan B as a matter of urgency to avoid a winter lockdown.”

  • “Plan B” is a trap as it is the first step towards another lockdown.

    The measures in Plan B probably won’t achieve much in terms of suppressing cases so the next stage after that will be inevitable calls to move to “Plan C” ie another lockdown.

    So even when people say “no-one is talking about another lockdown” it is clear that is the direction of travel unless we stop plan B.

  • @Martin

    Agree entirely, how anyone can think that masks do not contribute towards stopping the spread is astounding and defies all logic.


    Again, agree entirely, funny how we are trying to discuss things that will stop the country from going into complete lockdown again, but the only people banging on about lockdowns are those that were apposed to them most strongly.

    @Martin P Frost

    Do you know how many people are in hospitals right now with other ailments other than covid that need focused protection on top of the 5.7 Million people and growing awaiting treatment?
    There are people in Hospital right now with Gallbladder infections, Sepsis, Kidney Failure, organ transplants, Rheumatic Fever, Cancer, to just name a few, none of these patients regardless of whether they are vaccinated can afford to be catching even a mild case of covid right now.
    As I am sure you realise, patients need to be healthy to undergo stressful procedures that puts a toll on their body.
    Their loved ones also need to navigate this world and try to keep themselves covid free in order to protect them. Hospital Patients are only allowed 1 designated visitor for 1 hour a day for their entire hospital stay in order to try and keep covid out of hospitals.

    Mandatory mask use, reduces the spread of covid particles that an infected person has, thats a simple fact and I challenge you as Martin has to provide a study that proves otherwise.

    Nobody is arguing for a lockdown, ALL the main opposition parties are calling for action to avoid them and concerned members of the public are calling for action to get on top of this public health crisis that we are facing which is getting worse by the month and is going to have detrimental consequences for many years to come for millions of people.

    If you can not see that and are not concerned by it, then lets pray that neither you or a loved one ends up in a situation that requires urgent life saving / changing treatment

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 9:55am

    My point is that Plan B will lead to lockdown not avoid it. The measures won’t work and then we shall be faced with the inevitable calls for further restrictions. It is as if the vaccines were never developed in the first place. Sir Ed Davey would be better occupied seeking to revive the Lib Dems fortunes. Leave Plan B to the socialists.

  • Just a thought on how the Germans are trying to contain Covid, it might be a good idea to read Ian Birrells article in today’s “I” newspaper which he wrote while staying in Berlin, perhaps our government could take a few lessons.

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 10:29am

    Matt – oh dear. Mask wearing again. The Danish study trumps the non peer reviewed link that you sent. I am not prepared to go over the same old ground. If the evidence on the effectiveness of Masks was there, Covid would be under control in hospitals. You have already conceded that it is not. I have lost loved ones to Covid btw and maskwearing did not save them nor did lockdown. The reason we have such a huge hospital backlog is due to our own panicked response to the pandemic. It is perhaps the biggest blunder in ” progressive” group think of modern times. We are now talking ourselves into another lockdown by proposing measures that did not work before and are not going to this time around.

  • @Martin Frost

    “The crisis will never be over until we start getting smarter about our mitigation measures rather than resorting to a sledgehammer approach with all of the collateral damage it entails. ”

    So what Mitigation measures are you proposing Martin???

    You seem to be of the belief that lockdowns Social distancing and masks did not work and actually caused more harm…so please tell us how many more people died because of these measures rather than the lives it saved. Point us to the peer reviewed study that shows this to back up your claims.

    Do you truly believe that the NHS would have been able to operate as normal without these measures had we allowed the virus to rip with no mitigation measures and we would not now be seeing waiting lists of 5.7 million people and rising ???? I would be interested in reading any credible study that looked into this and by credible I dont mean dailysceptic

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 10:55am

    Matt – I am not going to respond further. You have your world view nothing I can say will change that.

  • Peter Martin 25th Oct '21 - 11:56am

    @ Martin Frost,

    Thank goodness for that! Have you tried writing to your MP? If you’re in a Tory seat you are more likely to get a sympathetic response.

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 12:02pm

    Peter Martin – I agree. I can not believe I ever worked for your party in the first place.

  • @ Martin and anyone quoting Mill

    If you are going to reference Mill’s harm principle please do so * in full * including:

    “ His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

    In other words you can do what you like as long as it doesn’t affect others. That’s why not only Classical Liberals but indeed many Libertarians see Mill as one of their own.

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 4:23pm

    No I am not a classical liberal and worked for Lib Dems in elections from David Steel up until Nick Clegg who I regarded as a neo-Thatcherite. Not that this bothered the Party very much at the time. I am against mask wearing and lockdowns on the basis of the same harm principle being highlighted and I don’t believe that they work.

  • Peter Watson 25th Oct '21 - 5:04pm

    It does feel like there is a bit of talking at cross-purposes in this thread.
    The challenging question being posed by Martin Frost – and I believe he is doing so with good intentions – seems not to be the narrow “Do face masks reduce the spread of covid?” (to which the answer “yes, but perhaps not as much as we thought” resounds through the thread), but the wider “Does compulsory mask wearing do more good than harm?” (to which I’m not sure I know the answer nor that it has properly been addressed in the thread).
    One can imagine that the perceived protection of face masks might encourage people to behave irresponsibly, or that mask wearing might bring its own health risks, or that the environmental impact of their production/transport/disposal might cost lives, etc.
    Although I don’t intend to stop wearing my mask yet, reading this thread has changed the way I view the debate, and I thank Martin Frost for that.

  • Martin Frost 24th Oct ’21 – 10:03am:
    The best study commissioned so far in Denmark showed no difference in Covid infection rates between mask wearers and non mask wearers.

    This is presumably the DANMASK-19 study…

    ‘Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers : A Randomized Controlled Trial’:

    It showed that masks reduced infections among wearers by 18%. The study was designed to find a 50% reduction so it fell short of that threshold. This result has been widely misinterpreted and incorrectly reported as showing that masks have little or no effect, as the following article explains…

    ‘Covid-19: controversial trial may actually show that masks protect the wearer’:

    Crucially, the outcome measure was rates of infection among those encouraged to wear masks and not in the community as a whole, so the study could not evaluate the most likely benefit of masks, that of preventing spread to other people. The study was designed to find a 50% reduction in infection rates among mask wearers. […]

    The results of DANMASK-19 do not argue against the benefit of masks to those wearing them but actually support their protective effect. […] …it can be shown that these data best support an 18% reduction in infections among mask wearers and find as much evidence for a 33% reduction as for no effect. […]

    Given the estimated 60 million SARS-CoV-2 infections worldwide, the DANMASK-19 trial’s finding of an 18% reduction in the infection rate among mask wearers is of enormous potential public health importance. […] Moreover, as has been said, this trial examined only one half of any potential benefit of masks — does it protect the wearer? — and did not consider any possible benefit in reduced transmission of infection to others.

    Are we surprised that the results of this study have been mis-interpreted in both the scientific and lay press as not providing any meaningful benefit, despite a valiant attempt by the DANMASK-19 authors to avoid these misunderstandings? Unfortunately not, as the interpretation and reporting of medical research have long been described as a “scandal.”

  • @Jeff

    Thank you for posting that.

    Considering the state our public health system is in at the moment an 18% reduction in infections for “mask wearers” in my opinion is enormous, and, as you say the study only looked into the benefits of the wearer, and “did not consider any possible benefit in reduced transmission of infection to others”

    I know I have disagreed with some of your postings on here, though I do appreciate your efforts to present your arguments in an unbiased fashion and go to great lengths to provide sources for your information.
    So thank you for that

  • Lorenzo Cherin 25th Oct '21 - 9:56pm

    Brilliant level of effort from Matt , hardly surprising, but needed!

    And much the same here, from Cassie, with articulate defence of Liberal not libertarian.

    I think the twp Martins are a very good contrast. Martin Frost, sorry, there is a libertarian party, you can become a member and support the stance you are in favour of and that which this party clearly does not like! I am quite happy to sit with sensible democratic socialists on this issue, as someone, on some issues, glad to be a social democrat, just as on others I am a classical liberal and on most, a social liberal.

    Our regular Martin said it well. Present more evidence on masks if you can. But my view is, what those of us who want more restrictions, so called, want to fully or powerfully restrict, is not people, but the virus!

    We are in a state. When in a hole, stop digging!

  • Martin Frost 25th Oct '21 - 11:00pm

    Some questions from this alleged libertarian?

    How many of the pro-mask studies refer to the use of paper masks and their effectiveness? Those I have read refer to surgical or respiratory masks tested under controlled conditions. So not exactly real world data.

    What was the reason for WHO’s longstanding advice that face masks were not much use getting amended ? Laura Kuensberg interviewed a WHO official at the time who admitted to her that it was Governmental pressure. ( WHO is still only lukewarm on the subject)

    The Danish research was intended as a pro-mask study. If its conclusions had been in line with the received wisdom, why did publishers refuse to touch it and the one that finally allowed it out insist on so many amendments?

    There are ongoing arguments about lives allegedly saved by lockdown but how many lives were saved by masks alone. Has it been quantified? No and nor will it be.

    The more honest scientists concede that it is not possible to prove the case for lockdowns or masks one way or the other.

    Wasn’t it the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury who on his first day in office removed the portrait of Keynes and replaced it with that of WE Gladstone? So economic liberalism from the erstwhile party of Keynes is OK at least.

    I suggest those of you who are so confident about masks call up former member Maajid Nawaz on his LBC show and have it out with him on the subject. I shall be listening out for you with interest. Better still perhaps Layla Moran will agree to be interviewed?

  • Nonconformistradical 25th Oct '21 - 11:31pm

    @Martin Frost
    “How many of the pro-mask studies refer to the use of paper masks and their effectiveness? Those I have read refer to surgical or respiratory masks tested under controlled conditions.”

    Repeating part of what I said at 8:35 am on 24 Oct..
    “My clear understanding (from a medic with experience of dealing with Covid patients) is that a well-fitting surgical mask (FFP2 or above) does offer some protection to others and a well-fitting FFP3 mask is needed to give you protection from others carrying the virus.

    Do you have some fundamantal objection to doing something which could protect others if you just happened to be carrying the virus?”

  • Martin Frost 26th Oct '21 - 12:07am

    No objection to the idea of wearing surgical masks if that is what some people want to do. My point is that the paper masks most people wear offer no protection at all nor do the public use them properly. That is why I believe the claims bout preventing another lockdown via maskwearing lacks any credibility.

  • Peter Martin 26th Oct '21 - 9:14am

    There is more to plan B than just wearing masks in public. There’s the recommendation for continued working from home and measures to encourage an increased vaccine take up. Like the use of Covid passports.

  • Martin Frost 26th Oct '21 - 10:44am

    A few years ago Liberal Democrats would have been outraged at the idea of Covid passports. Most of those who can work from home are already doing so. Booster vaccine roll out has merit but you can’t force people to take the jab. Do you have to be a Classical Liberal these days to argue that this is wrong?

  • Simon Robinson 26th Oct '21 - 12:01pm

    @Martin “If ‘some people’ do not want to care about this, their attitude is anything but Liberal.” That seems harsh. I’m not sure that it’s so much, people not caring about it, as it being a balance of competing demands. The evidence does seem to be that masks reduce the risks of infection in some settings; however, they don’t come without cost – to the environment, to communication and to quality of life. And if we make wearing them compulsory in some settings, that has an implicit cost in terms of removing people’s freedom to make a choice and perhaps a sense of authoritarianism. You therefore have to make a value judgement on whether the benefits of enforced mask-wearing are so huge that they justify all the costs – and that’s a much tougher call than simply saying that mask wearing helps reduce transmission.

    Personally I can see both sides of the argument, and I’d hate to dismiss either side as not being liberal.

  • Peter Martin 28th Oct '21 - 10:31am

    I’m not quite sure why the commentators on here seem to think a “beefed up Plan B” is all about wearing face masks.

    That’s just a part of it. A bigger problem is the wilfully unvaccinated. What are Lib Dems proposing to do to persuade the 12% of the adult population to get those jabs?

  • Martin Frost 28th Oct '21 - 11:16pm

    Peter Martin – Early in the pandemic, Government scientific advisers predicted that they needed 75-80% population compliance with lockdown to bring Covid infection rates under control. 88% vaccine compliance is a great achievement. We need to keep up the campaign for greater vaccine uptake but without infringing individual human rights. Compulsion does form part of Plan B. No true Liberal would support such an approach.

  • Peter Martin 29th Oct '21 - 8:10am

    @ Martin Frost,

    We didn’t have the Delta variant early in the Pandemic. 75-80% vaccination cover would probably have been enough for the less transmissible early strains but unfortunately it isn’t now.

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