Is wearing a mask a civil liberties issue?

Some Libertarians in the US and elsewhere certainly seem to think so, and refuse to wear them. But we are not Libertarians, and as Liberals it is easy enough for us to justify asking others to wear masks by drawing on two principles described by John Stuart Mill.

In On Liberty Mill explores his political philosophy and expounds on the Harm Principle:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

In other words, the potential for harm can outweigh the loss of liberty.

In Utilitarianism Mill develops this from an ethical point of view and outlines the Greatest Happiness Principle:

… actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

Whenever we, as a party, debate policy that might impact on our liberties, members tend to use one or other of these principles as justification for their position. For example, discussions some years ago about whether to ban smoking in public inside spaces often invoked the harm principle – smoking can cause physical damage to people nearby who are not smoking, including the people who work there. On the other hand, the powers adopted should be minimal, that is set at the lowest level to be effective, which is why we support outdoor smoker’s areas, where the harm is limited to the smokers themselves.

In comparison, I can remember the arguments in society at large over the wearing of seat belts and crash helmets. In both those cases the potential for harm was, apparently, only to the person concerned and did not threaten others, so the Harm Principle did not seem to apply. However people did accept that road accidents, which those measures were intended to mitigate, have a social impact that stretches beyond those who are injured. We can factor in the distress caused to the family and friends of people who are killed or seriously injured in an accident, as well as the actual costs of providing emergency services plus health and social care to the victim, so we could argue that the Harm Principle still applies. And from the perspective of the Greatest Happiness Principle we could argue that it is right to wear a seat belt or crash helmet since they promote overall levels of happiness. However I can see that the arguments are quite finely balanced in these two cases.

When it comes to wearing masks the ethical position is much clearer. I wear a mask to protect you, not to protect myself, in other words to prevent harm to others.

Masks do, of course, carry their own risks of harm. They reduce communication for those with hearing loss, they can cause problems to people with respiratory illnesses, and they can cause mental distress to people with certain conditions such as autism.

Much of the debate around these and other issues focuses on the potential level of harm and a balancing of risks. Suppose a future Government required us to wear masks outside the home at all times, long after the pandemic had passed, on the grounds that there are lots of nasty bugs that can be transmitted from person to person. I think most of us would rebel against that, because the risk would be less than the harm caused by everyone having to wear masks. Calculating the harm risk is the counterpart to calculating the greatest happiness.

So, yes, wearing masks is a civil liberties question but the answer comes firmly down in favour of wearing them during the pandemic.

By the way, when a new President of the Liberal Democrats is elected, a copy of On Liberty is passed on to a new incumbent. This normally happens at Conference, so I guess Mark Pack is still waiting.



* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • John Marriott 11th Sep '20 - 1:20pm

    A well reasoned article, Mary (I like the new hairstyle – my wife is ‘going longer’, while mine is still disappearing!). Of course, wearing masks is no magic bullet (on reflection, not a very appropriate analogy). However, they do help and give a bit of security, as you say. However, I see a lot of people wearing them BELOW their noses. Surely that nullifies the benefit. Wearing glasses most of the time means that I am often apparently moving through a fog and I take your point about those people who rely on lip reading. Transparent see through masks might be the answer.

    I must admit that I sometimes get annoyed when I see someone in a shop, for example, not wearing a mask, although here in Lincoln I have to say that most people are doing as they are told. If people are exempt for health reasons, perhaps a small pin-on badge could be available to indicate this.

    To those, who view the wearing of face masks as another attempt of those ‘in control’ to enslave us even more, I would say; “Pull the other one”. Cue for a return of ‘Glenn’?

  • Simple to me: Masks or Death!!! There are limits to Civil Liberties. Well being of society is paramount.

  • @ John Marriott “If people are exempt for health reasons, perhaps a small pin-on badge could be available to indicate this.”

    Should disabled people have to advertise their disabilities in public? That’s not the kind of society I would like to live in.

    I don’t doubt that it is a powerful instinct to feel angry to people who aren’t following the herd but we should resist this urge. I was irritated by someone the other day who was not wearing a mask and standing too close to people but it dawned on me that he probably had an eyesight problem.

    As Katherine Harries Deputy CMO says “the evidence regarding masks is not very strong in either direction”. This does not support compulsion.

    Indeed in the liberal utopia of Holland masks are not compulsory nationally. They were compulsory for a while in Amsterdam and Rotterdam as part of an experiment to gather more evidence about the effects of mask wearing.

  • Look at mask wearing from a different perspective; it’s not a matter about civil liberty not to wear a mask but is a matter of civil responsibility to wear one. We have countless instances of obligations that are placed upon us for the general good of society rather than having personal freedom of choice. This topic doesn’t warrant the time we’re spending on it!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Sep '20 - 3:25pm

    A fine attention to the very heart of this party and its philosophy. Thanks to Mary for bringing both key principles up, all too often misquoted, and not readily argued in favour of accurately.

    I think compulsion on the street is wrong. They do little there. But if social distancing is carried out there is anyway no need for them outside. Carry them for going inside, wear them around the neck or keep them in their bag ready.

    they should be worn inside public places entered for a brief while. A shop, yes, a bank. However, extended periods are of concern. Some can feel stifled and those, as indicated above, who suffer any effects, ought not to wear them, but must keep their distance.

    I disagree with the whole change from, keep a distance, to, do not, just wear a mask. We were safer when apart, no need for masks. We were safer when pubs, bars, restaurants, offices, were most of them, closed. The desire to get back to normal in areas not essential, is the mistake. We ought to have kept certain sectors subsidised to be shut. Things could get back to normal, when there is a vaccine. Things could get better if there is social distance. There is not , people are not as responsible, often, as we might like. Those who are, fine, but, as someone who has reasons to be concerned,on the health front, as my wife has had pneumonia twice, and as someone who cannot wear a mask myself for long, I preferred it when people took responsibility and prioritised this virus, not quick fixes or props.

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Sep '20 - 4:26pm

    You are perfectly safe with a mask, or without one, and if no one else wears a mask, or if they do.
    The Pandemic is now only found in one small place.
    Your television set.
    The only measure that has value is excess deaths. This is to be found every Tuesday on the Office of National Statistics web site. It is not widely published as it is an affront to the current narrative which has reached the stage where those who call for common sense to re-emerge are denounced as deniers or blasphemers.
    If there is anyone out there who knows how to read a graph they will discover that the epidemic ended about the end of May. But of course we have “cases”. Of what?
    A runny nose? Loss of smell for a day?
    Certainly no one is dying any more, or at least if they are their deaths are not being registered.
    The end of this outbreak will mean that those who never before showed any medical or scientific knowledge but who are now authoritative know it alls will have to find another pastime.
    Oh, Sweden is never mentioned any more. Can those at the back guess why?
    All we have is the ” Hancock Daily Knee Jerk” designed to avert another peak no trace, in the slightest of which, can be seen in the ONS graph.

  • Innocent Bystander – I was going to delete your dangerous falsehoods, but I thought it better to refute them. Are you seriously saying that the 3000 people who are confirmed to have Covid-19 each day are somehow imagining it? It seems they are predominantly younger people during this phase, which is why there are fewer (not no) deaths, but the disease can very quickly spread to the more vulnerable people like me.
    I do understand statistics – I was a Maths teacher – and the excess deaths figure is one among many that have to be considered, although excess deaths are best understood over a whole season rather than week by week.
    You are clearly not clinically vulnerable yourself or you would not be spreading this nonsense. I prefer to take advice from the medical professionals in my area.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '20 - 5:00pm

    I’ve no strong view about “advertising their disabilities in public”. I was just thinking out loud really. As for advertising, what about a white stick or a guide dog, or even a wheel chair? I was thinking about words like “Mask exempt”. What I want to avoid is people being given a hard time if they have a genuine medical reason for not wearing a mask, as opposed to being just philosophically against such strictures.

    That comment about “following the herd“ is a clear indicator of which side of the argument you are coming from. I have only one word to say to you; “BAAAA”!

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Sep '20 - 5:28pm

    Thank you for your honesty. Most caught up in this group think go all Piers Morgan and attempt to suppress any debate however reasoned and sensible.
    I am impressed that you are prepared to hear different views.
    Firstly, 3000 cases of what, exactly? These are the results of swabs, not post mortems. Virtually all will have zero or trivial symptoms.
    As I pointed out they are not dying of it. Please, please study the ONS weekly graph, ignore attention seeking TV doctors and appraise its message yourself.
    It shows that mortality is at normal levels and has been for nearly three months.
    I am 69 and prepared to take my chances for the sake of normality and to lift this economic crisis which has fallen onto our young.
    The panic has affected me though. My periodic prostate check was done over the ‘phone because the surgery didn’t want patients. Men of my age will understand that this time it was more dignified than usual.
    Maybe not as effective.
    Sweden’s response was mature, responsible and unemotional. And has been vindicated.

  • @John Marriott “As for advertising, what about a white stick or a guide dog, or even a wheel chair?”

    To think all these years I thought that the purpose of a guide dog was to help their owner find their way. Turns out that the real function of the Canine companion is to advertise to other people that their owner is blind. Who knew?!

    On a more serious note I agree with the basic principle of the article which is that when interfering with civil liberties it is essentially a question of proportionality. However it also true to say as Lord Sumption points out that fear can lead people to accept a disproportionate interference with their liberties that can prove difficult to reverse. It is for that reason that Liberal Democrats would oppose Tony Blair’s 90 day detention policy.

    I have to say that I am amazed that the Lib Dems don’t seem to have found anything at all in the Coronavirus Act to object to.

  • No.

  • John Marriott 11th Sep '20 - 7:37pm

    The verb ‘to advertise’ means to draw someone’s attention to something. When I see someone with a white stick and/or a guide dog I pretty much know what ‘disability’ that person unfortunately has. So, if I see a person not wearing a face mask in a shop; but with some sort of badge I would feel less inclined to ask them why they were behaving differently. Remember, it was you, who chose to use the rather provocative verb ‘advertise’, not me.

  • @Innocent Bystander – I’m sorry but you are dangerously wrong. The ONS data that you refer to shows that deaths so far this year are more than 50,000 greater than the average of the previous 5 years in England & Wales, and that number is growing.

    The deviation from the average clearly happened as Coronavirus infections spread.

    What do you think those 50,000+ people died of?

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Sep '20 - 9:23pm

    Please don’t jump to conclusions. I am not a flat earther, antivaxxer, or believe that Covid was a hoax.
    I try and be sensible, controlled, unemotional and thoughtful.
    The Covid death toll is 54,309 according to the ONS. However, unless you are looking at the wrong graph, that occurred in April and May and the curves now are as close to normal as any reasonable person would concede. In fact, the deaths were below the average for 9 weeks and are only slightly raised now. The death rate has been at normal levels since 28 May.
    In the face of that the current position is strategic nonsense. The vast sums being spent and the damage done is far and away disproportionate. There are many, many more targets for health spend which would save far more lives than this current media fuelled terror when there is a minute risk of death. Well, what does the redline say?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Sep '20 - 11:02pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,

    Or, perhaps, the curve is as close to normal as it is now because a lot of people have decided to manage risk levels to their own satisfaction by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, working from home where possible. My sense throughout the pandemic is that the Government have been a couple of steps behind the public pretty much throughout.

    I come from a relatively high risk group – South Asian – and frankly prefer not to take risks that I don’t need to. And whilst you may think that the cost of this is too high (and I might agree with you on that), if you’re going to take such a blazé view of people’s desire not to catch COVID-19, you’re always likely to find yourself on the wrong side of the argument.

    So, if you don’t want to wear a mask, feel free. But don’t be surprised when people give you a wide berth, for what you’re effectively saying is, “I don’t care about anyone else.”, and you therefore represent a heightened level of risk towards others.

  • @Innocent Bystander – sorry again, but you are wrong. What the ONS data says is that lockdown worked to bring deaths down, but relaxing it has seen an increase again. Deaths for the last 3 weeks reported are back above average and growing.

    By all means make the case that the economic cost of fighting coronavirus isn’t worth it, but don’t deny that people are dying of it when they have done and still are.

    The only reason you are able to make the claim that “the epidemic ended about the end of May” is exactly because the nation collectively took the sort of measures you now criticise in order to bring the death toll down. But it hasn’t gone away, and relaxation of those measures has seen the number of cases rise, followed a few weeks later by an increase in deaths.

    In the overall scheme of things, asking most people to wear a mask some of the time is not a big ask.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Sep '20 - 7:47am

    “relaxation of those measures has seen the number of cases rise, followed a few weeks later by an increase in deaths.”

    This seems the crucial issue. Might be better to keep an eye on those European countries which are a few weeks ahead of UK in having seen a rise in cases as lockdowns are relaxed and they try to get kids back to school and people back to work.

    And the more younger people who appear less vulnerable to serious problems from Covid-19 are exposed to the virus the greater the risk they will pass it on to more vulnerable members of their immediate families.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Sep '20 - 8:06am

    Sorry to contradict you again but the ONS narrative specifically states that Covid 19 did not cause the slight increase. Please study their report as I do.
    I concede that people are still dying of Covid complications but at a level far, far, far below any justification for the current measures. About 1,500 die every day from all causes and those who consider themselves vulnerable to Covid are probably more at risk from all the other stuff like flu, meningitis and lots of others.
    If Covid deaths get down to one per year, would you still endorse the current restrictions?
    If not then you have a “toll” you consider acceptable, like deaths from road accidents. What is it?
    I contend that such an acceptable risk level was reached weeks (or months) ago.
    There could be many reasons for the clear sign that deaths (virtually) stopped at the end of May. Medical treatments could have found solutions after the initial losses, the virus could have weakened and human body could have responded. The human body is designed to cope with viral attack, we have survived innumerable challenges over millennia.
    Whether lock down helped we don’t know as we only have a few countries which didn’t lockdown for comparison and in the one we never mention things went as least as well as ours.

    The virus will only ever be controlled by the immune system, eventually, like all the others. Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination but it took two centuries. The current vaccination craze will fade away as did ventilators made from Fairy liquid bottles and vacuum cleaners which were all the rage once.

    At the start I felt there was some justification for the measures although I felt Sweden’s approach more sensible. The disease was unknown and it was arguable that society needed to respond in some way to prevent the health services being overwhelmed.
    By late May those draconian actions were clearly no longer justified but fear was triggered by our irresponsible media and that fear is still driving these terrible, irreplaceable job losses.

    I remain calm but only approach anger when I see the young suffering so much to protect the elderly from a non existent risk (just fear) with no sign of recognition or gratitude for their sacrifice. Far from it. The young are demonised for any sign that they want to enjoy their youth and have even been told “Don’t kill granny!” which is probably the most disgusting moral blackmail I have ever heard.

  • @ Nick Baird

    I am not sure how you are drawing those conclusions from the ONS data.

    Deaths were below the 5 year average from week 25 to week 32 then were slightly above average for week 32 to 35. However deaths w/e 28 Aug were 599 lower than the previous week.

    Furthermore deaths involving Covid continued for fall in the last 3 weeks 139, 138 and 101.

    Not really evidence of a new surge.

    I also can’t see how anyone can base an argument about the effectiveness of lockdowns on ONS data.

  • Chris Perry 12th Sep '20 - 8:45am

    Surely people working in restaurants, both in the kitchen and serving, should wear masks and be trained not to speak over customers or over their food?

  • From the ONS graph shown below, I note that lower than usual deaths from flu and pneumonia helped to bring down the total excess deaths over the last couple of months. I wonder whether this is as a result – a by-product if you like – of the Covid measures such as face masks and hand-cleaning? This “by-product” was something mooted by Dr Philip Hammond in one his early Private Eye columns on the subject.

    The level of Covid deaths lag behind infections. I see that the Covid daily death toll is now going up. UK deaths were 60 between 8th – 11th September. Whereas the previous four days it was 27.

    This is in line with countries on the continent of Europe, who have been 3-4 weeks ahead of us on the Covid curve throughout the crisis.

    According to Worldometer, France was up to 80 deaths yesterday, where as they were down at zero/single figures back in July. Similarly their daily infection rate was well below 100 in June but gradually crept up to touching ten thousand a day. We need to beware of the time lag between infections going up and deaths going up. France seems to have experienced that. Also Spain (although their infection rate is now coming down).

    I tend to go with the Dr Phil Hammond school of thought – that broad health measures are vital – measures which bring up the health of the poorest and tackle already endemic problems such as heart disease and obesity.

    He also says that testing is the key to the Covid crisis:

  • Oddly enough I was looking at the death statistics published on our local council website only this morning. It shows that for most of the last three months the deaths per week has been slightly below the 5 year average for the equivalent week. The only exception was the week of August 14th to 21st where the deaths were noticeably above average both here and in all neighbouring council areas. This coincided with the heatwave.

    I think that there is a question mark over the entire methodology of PCR testing. The process relies on amplification of the virus by repeated cycles – the number of cycles used is called the Ct value. There is growing evidence that the Ct value being used is too high – that it is identifying fragments of virus rather than infectious cases. See the outline paper from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine for example –

    If the Ct value being used in testing is actually detecting non-infectious virus fragments then this might go some way to explaining the disconnect between recorded cases and hospitalisations. Time will tell.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Sep '20 - 11:24am

    Thank you for bringing some proper thought to this debate but now consider not just the relative movement of Covid deaths but their absolute level in a population of 67 million.
    The numbers you quote stand much less than two orders of magnitude lower than the normal mortality.
    My point remains, in alignment with the country whose name we don’t mention, that the disaster we continue to inflict on education and the economy is spectacularly out of proportion to the medical challenge.
    It isn’t even significant compared to the usual flu deaths never mind the other causes.
    Panic is never a good response to a crisis but our worthless leadership did just that. They have created real, but unjustified, fear in society and now are powerless to call that fear back.
    At least on this site Mary has allowed a fair debate. A number of “Covid is a big pharma plot!” cranks have unfortunately led to the more sane and thoughtful voices to be silenced along with them.
    Covid was a real medical emergency with many victims but there will be even more from other causes if we allow its shadow to stretch any further. We are now in the very small aftershocks of an earthquake regime and need to move on swiftly to rebuild.

  • As well as the country we don’t mention, why don’t we mention the USA? And particularly those states that have either shunned lockdown-style
    measures or been equivocal about them?

    I am thinking particularly about Florida and Texas:

    New York State, on the other hand, had tough lockdown measures and has been able to emerge from the crisis early on, compared to other states.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Sep '20 - 12:14pm

    Quite, but I don’t trust American stats (even more under the current administration). I can not rid myself of the notion ( possibly unjustified) that their public services, including health, are so politicised and privatised that I don’t trust them. I may be doing them a disservice.

  • As has been mentioned on here before, we need to careful about comparisons between the UK and Sweden. In terms of population density and international travel/interchanges/volumes, the two countries are not similar.

  • “Panic is never a good response to a crisis but our worthless leadership did just that.”

    I don’t think our government panicked. In February Johnson was on holiday at Chequers and the government did nothing – thereby losing three or four weeks when they should have been responding.

    Perhaps you would say New Zealand panicked? But they have had a very low death rate.

  • “Quite, but I don’t trust American stats (even more under the current administration). “

    But they are stats prepared at state level – not federal.

    If the health services in the states are producing politicised figures then why aren’t we seeing lower numbers from Texas and Florida – both with Republican governors?

  • David Garlick 12th Sep '20 - 1:38pm

    Innocence is in need of definition, but not by me.
    I am older than the Innocent Bystander and we do have health issues in the household which could be severely impacted by this virus. If the IB was to become infected and pass it on to me or mine I am not sure I would be able to forgive. Not because it was passed on which might occur quite ‘innocently’. but because quite reasonable easy steps were not taken which could have avoided it.

  • Never thought I’d support the political philosophy of a Glasgow Tattoo studio or quote the Scottish Sun newspaper……. (not, please, to be confused with the Edinburgh Military Tattoo).

    Search “The Scottish Sun
    Coronavirus Scotland: Glasgow tattoo parlour’s brutal reply as they refuse to ink anti-masker…….
    A SCOTS tattoo parlour have been praised for their brutal response to an anti-masker who claimed coronavirus was “a hoax”. Staff at the…” 3 hours ago

  • Sweden have been removed from the UK quarantine list due to their low infection rate.

    The population density of major Swedish cities is comparable to other major European cities so population density is irrelevant.

    The Malmo region of Sweden is closest to Denmark and has had similar death rates to Denmark (who themselves had one of the shortest lockdowns).

  • Sue Sutherland 12th Sep '20 - 2:33pm

    I am immensely grateful to the large numbers of people who willingly gave up their freedoms to protect the vulnerable. The pandemic has shown that most people are more Liberal than we thought.
    Fortunately we aren’t dealing with the bubonic plague, which I believe cut the European population by a third, but I still think Innocent Bystander is wrong in what he says.
    As far as I’m concerned this is a horrible virus and it’s treatment is most unpleasant and can take months even if you don’t die. Then there is the fact that catching it can leave even young people with long term effects which ruin their lives. I really don’t want to get it. I realise that it’s much easier to think of the situation as death versus freedom because that is when the argument is at its clearest but, as usual, it’s just not as clear cut as that.

  • Marco 12th Sep ’20 – 2:30pm……….
    The population density of major Swedish cities is comparable to other major European cities so population density is irrelevant….

    What is not irrelevant is that Sweden has only 10 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants; the UK has over 80.

  • The population density of the UK is over ten times that of Sweden.

    If you take the three biggest cities in each country, the total population of those three cities in the UK is over four times that of the three biggest cities in Sweden.

    Heathrow airport, in 2019, had over three times as many passengers travelling through it compared to Arlanda, Sweden’s biggest airport.

    Populations of three biggest cities:

    1 Stockholm 1,515,017
    2 Gothenburg 572,799
    3 Malmö 301,706
    Total: 2,389,522

    1 London 8907918
    2 Birmingham 1153717
    3 Glasgow 612040
    Total 10673675

    Population density:
    Sweden: 25 per km2
    UK: 275 per km2

    Arlanda airport 25.6million passengers 2019
    Heathrow airport 80.9million passengers 2019

  • Sweden has had 578 deaths per million.

    That is along the lines of Italy, who have had 589 deaths per million.

    But, again, Italy’s population density is about eight times that of Sweden.

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Sep '20 - 3:01pm

    I admire Sweden because they have found a way to allow their young people to enjoy one of their precious few summers.
    Here, if any young person showed any sign of happiness with their friends the gutter press and many irascible old people screamed “Covidiots !! ” at them.

  • Greater Stockholm 3970 per km2
    Greater London 4542 per km2

    Not that different.

    Density is somewhat misleading as a measure and there is no established link between death rates and density.

    It is more likely that the mildness or severity of recent flu seasons is a stronger indicator of how many people died from Covid (mild flu season = larger population vulnerable to Covid).

  • Innocent Bystander 12th Sep '20 - 5:26pm

    Throughout I have been saddened by the utter lack of acknowledgement of the victims of this response to Covid.
    Our young have suffered educationally, economically, psychologically, socially and have been accused of being Covdiots and of killing granny by way of reward for their sacrifice. They have lost a precious summer at festivals with friends.
    But not a word of gratitude. Just old people sharing their health problems and fear of dying.

  • “Not that different.”

    Well, not if you just single out one parameter, no.

    But what about the several listed above by several people in reply to you?

  • You can and should wear a mask in the presence of others and social distance. It is not an either/or. Doing both will keep you far safer than doing just one alone.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Sep '20 - 9:04am

    @ Innocent Bystander re posting at 12th Sep ’20 – 5:26pm
    Do please have a look at
    and please note this from a 27-year-old
    “If I had known that I’d be this ill, I would have taken everything a lot more seriously back in March,” Russell said. “But all that we heard back then was that if you were infected and you were a young person, you’d most likely not have any symptoms at all. Or you’d be ill for a couple of weeks and that would be it.”

    That comment takes no account of the risk of passing the virus to someone more vulnerable. The high risk of transmission and the vulnerability of some people to serious problems was obvious even then.

    It seems to me that most – but not necessarily all – older people have taken Covid seriously and in the main tried to do what is sensible. I’m far from impressed by the behaviour of many younger people from what I’ve seen and read. As an older person I’ve been keeping out of the way.

    And on the festivals issue – given the extent to which people, when released from total lockdown, have failed to observe social distancing, never mind wearing a mask – my sympathies lie with the musicians (and festival organisers) losing their income rather than with the would-be attendees who missed out on having a good time.

    It could be that a means of holding festivals could have been worked out – reducing permitted attendances, charging more per person ( OK – a festival-goer might have had to attend fewer festivals than usual) if only people could be trusted to behave sensibly. But from what I’ve seen, far too few people can be trusted to behave sensibly – and it’s older people who are more likely to be trustworthy in this respect.

    Young people having a good time isn’t at the top of my agenda right now!

  • You beat me to it, Nonconformistradical!

  • Innocent Bystander 13th Sep '20 - 10:07am

    Mr Radical,
    I’m sorry Charlie feels a little tired. Not sure it warrants the destruction of the economy and society for the other 66,999,999 of us.
    As to the harsh comments about our children I will make no reply.

  • There should be no need for those who can’t wear a mask to wear a medical exemption badge when in ordinary public places (there could be a possible argument for certification in high stakes environments) as long as the rest of us do our part by wearing masks and encouraging friends and relatives to do so. If compliance is high, then it can be assumed those not masked have good reason. The problem is the selfish people who could easily wear a mask but choose not to, making life harder for the people they put at risk and by giving the impression that the general population of non mask wearers are irresponsible rather than deserving of sympathy and consideration. I don’t imagine that people with respiratory conditions who can’t wear a mask particularly think they’ve got a good deal out of the current situation.

    I do think it is worth acknowledging that masks for many of us are uncomfortable, annoying, and inconvenient. I’m a glasses wearer with scarring in my nose; the fog and extra pressure aren’t fun. But we don’t have to be happy to wear a mask or want to do it long term, only do it in the present need even if we don’t enjoy it.

  • The statistics do confirm that young people are much less at risk from Covid. You can always find individual people who had a serious illness – this is true of illnesses like pneumonia that we already live with.

    Yet studies have actually shown that young people wildly overestimate the risk they face whereas older people are more realistic.

    Whereas quite a few older people I have spoken to are somewhat sceptical of the response to the virus and thought rules like the 2 metre rule outdoors is was a bit daft.

    I suspect that young healthy people catching a mild infection has an upside which is that it could help to build immunity which ultimately is the quickest way out of this situation.

  • @ Paul Walter

    By other stats you mean how busy the airports are? !

    Time to move from clutching at straws phase to acceptance phase – ie Sweden largely got it right.

    The Swedish government are being advised by some of the worlds leading experts – and they aren’t saying “don’t copy us, we live in spaces out log cabins that we only leave to hunt deer”

    They have actually been saying “you all made a mistake with your lockdowns and you should have followed our response instead”.

  • Innocent Bystander 13th Sep '20 - 11:23pm

    Sadly it is just us two against the worst case of group think and a self referencing and self reinforcing narrative I could have imagined. A perfect storm of weak leaders and a sensation craving media.
    Why are so many bogus claims supinely believed?
    “We know deaths lag behind cases”
    No they don’t. Just look at the graphs of cases against deaths in April and May. You could lay one con top of the other. There is not the smallest sign of temporal displacement at all.
    All the graphs show that despite cases going up deaths relentlessly fall, apparently ignoring the cases curve and reaching zero weeks ago.
    Today’s deaths were 5. Yes 5, not 5,000, not 500, not even 50, but 5. out of 67 million of us and against 1,500 daily deaths. That is not even in the noise.
    It looks for all the world like the human immune system has done what it has always done and has taken the lethality out of a virus that may have reached, in small amounts, nearly everyone already and left it no more deadly than athlete’s foot or dandruff.
    How can we live in such fear of an epidemic which every graph and curve shows isn’t killing anyone, anymore??
    Will no one else wake up?

  • IB

    I am not going to “wake up” because every point you make here has been effectively rebutted.

    You’ve quoted the deaths figure for a Sunday. Hospitals don’t tend to register deaths over the weekend. And there was a lag of at least ten days between the cases and deaths – because that’s how long it takes for people to die of the disease. We should also take into account that during the height of the disease people were being told to stay at home if they had symptoms and not being tested – so they didn’t show up in the case figures. We should take heed of places like Spain – where there’s been 250 deaths in the last four days.

    The individual stories of victims of the disease are harrowing – even if they survive people are scarred with disabilities for the future.

    928,676 people, according to Worldometer, have died of this disease so far. That is a little more lethal than athlete’s foot.

    Faced with all the evidence of the lethality of the disease, is wearing a face mask and avoiding gatherings of over six, really a large price to pay?

    I am not a scientist but I listen to scientists. They are currently saying that we should be very worried about a resurgence in the disease.

    What are your scientific qualifications IB?

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Sep '20 - 11:53am

    With respect, and I do as you have previously revealed that you have a serious career in data management and tracking and control, but I urge you to look at the data yourself rather than repeat the words of experts. I feel sure that if you ignore the deluge of gloom that fills the airwaves and study the raw data you will see that the death toll has vanished (to any level of significance).
    I can’t reveal my own career but I was MD of a science based organisation which contained dozens of PhDs. Some I would trust to the limit others, well not so much. Experts would be fine if they weren’t also human and subject to the same flaws as craving recognition, obstinacy etc as afflict all of us.
    Certainly, British experts and Swedish experts have different opinions. Which are right?
    Individual stories can be harrowing and I, also, am sorry, but national direction can not be influenced by them.
    I know you say there is a lag between cases and deaths but there is no sign of that in the curves at all. The cases and deaths graphs for April and May, when the virus was in full flight are identical in time but if you wanted to be picky, the deaths seems to lead, not lag at all. Maybe it’s quicker to be diagnosed dead than get a result from the Covid lab.
    There is a price to pay. One of our sons is a bachelor, lives alone and used to enjoy the companionship of his work place. He has worked alone in his study since March.
    Worst of all is that I am sure that if the death toll remains at zero (as it now is) the experts
    responsible for this economic and mental health damage will declare that they have saved us with facemasks and the rule of six and put their fingers in their ears if anyone mentions ‘Sweden’.
    It actually looks like the much derided and reviled ‘herd immunity’ has acted like it has for millennia and the virus though still widespread has been controlled by our own defences which have now caught up.

  • For occasionally wearing a face mask and avoiding gatherings of seven and over, the price is worth paying. Yes, there are signs that the mortality rate is going down. But it is too early to relax.

    I have looked at the data, IB – in fact I think I have looked at it too much over the last six months.

    You seem to put your fingers in your ears when anyone mentions “Texas” or “Florida”.

    I’m closing comments on this thread because debate has been exhausted.

  • “Why are so many bogus claims supinely believed?”

    Originally I thought fear but I actually think it is stigma- people don’t want to have an opinion that other people consider selfish or against the prevailing view – you see this with critics of BLM and XR as well.

    We all believe in following the science but it is very clear that there is no scientific consensus on Covid and no such thing as “following the science “ because there are so many dissenting experts who think that the approach taken was the wrong one.

  • Florida had a delayed first wave, they didn’t have a second wave.

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