Boris Johnson's Freedom Day is a dangerous experiment with public health: GP Taylor

In the dark days of March 2020 before Covid became a household name, I was wearing a face mask to do my supermarket shopping. I remember the night clearly, standing near the frozen peas as a woman shouted abuse at me and told me how stupid I looked and that masks didn’t work.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

She was of course repeating the words of Chris Whitty who was reported as telling the public not to wear a mask. I believe that these words from the Government hymn book were propaganda to stop the British public buying up all the PPE and to save the NHS.

At a Downing Street briefing in early March 2020, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam made clear: “There is no evidence that general wearing of face masks by members of the public who are well affects the spread of the disease in our society. In terms of the hard evidence, and what the UK government recommends, we do not recommend face masks for general wearing.”

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It was as if the NHS had magical powers and that masks protected people only when they were used in medical conditions. We were being spun a lie and my reasoning was that if medics want face masks to protect them from Covid, then I too would benefit from wearing one in public.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

As Covid wreaked death and destruction through our society, killing our friends and loved ones, the evidence began to pile up that countries with higher mask wearing had lower infections and deaths. By July 2020, mask wearing was mandatory in shops and on public transport.

When the U-turn happened, I wonder if Boris Johnson ever thought how many lives he could have saved if he had brought in mask wearing from the beginning? Having been at death’s door with the virus himself, surely, he would have done everything possible to save others?

Now, as we await Freedom Day on July 19, the confusion over the wearing of masks persists. The Government is again pursuing its policy of back-door herd immunity. Masks should be a legal requirement for at least another year. The reckless act of going soft on masks will cause more infections and deaths as both Delta and the possibility of vaccine-resistant variants run rampant in our towns and cities.

It will only be a matter of time before the Government realises that its futile efforts to get the economy open, so that selfish people can have a mask-less pie and a pint, will bring another lockdown upon us all.

It has never heeded the warning to open up society slowly and keep masks and social distancing in place until all of the country is vaccinated. No, such is the Government’s stupidity that it is prepared to sacrifice the lives of the innocent on the altar of financial gain. Freedom Day is freedom only for the people who don’t care about spreading the disease.

In the last week, I have seen people shopping in my local butchers and veg shop without masks and they have not been challenged. Families still go to the supermarket together and ignore signs that say to shop alone. On the town centre bus in Scarborough last Friday afternoon, the driver and six passengers were not wearing face masks. I doubt if they are all exempt. It is more like that they just cannot be bothered.

The number of non-mask wearers is growing as people get fed up with restrictions.

We are suddenly in a divided world of “mask or no mask?” There are those who consider the risks to others and wear a mask and those who don’t give a damn in their pursuit of normality. Do non-maskers realise that infection rates are rising? The current R number means that, on average, every 10 people infected will go on to infect between 12 and 15 others. The growth rate shows the number of new infections is rising by between three and seven per cent every day, deaths will quickly follow. In the words of one scientist, it will get much worse before it gets better.

The British Medical Association has called for masks to stay after July 19, as have many prominent scientists. So why doesn’t the Government listen? It appears that the lives of many will be lost as it pursues the cheap option of herd immunity once more.

I for one will not be abandoning my mask and social distancing will be a priority. Freedom Day is a dangerous experiment with public health. Even though I am double jabbed, I will look after my safety and the safety of others. Yet again, I expect to be insulted once more as I venture out in my mask. It will become a symbol of revolt, a sign of sedition and an implement of division.

I am not alone, a YouGov poll last month said 56 per cent of people are still planning to wear a face mask on public transport and 50 per cent in shops.

Doing away with them has nothing to do with the economy or people’s mental health, it is motivated by faulty ideology. It is not for Boris to decide that the people have had enough of face masks and everything should get back to normal. Covid is a world-changing virus of doubtful origin. If the disease is allowed to spread then it will mutate and mutate until we could possibly have a pathogen that is even more deadly.

God forbid it becomes untreatable. In the not too distant future, Freedom Day might just be looked back on as being the most reckless, stupid and world-changing event ever.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster.

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