Mask mandates are not without cost

Connor Tomlinson

November 30, 2021

Last Saturday, Britain exhibited its collective Stockholm Syndrome when it breathed a sigh of relief that the Prime Minister will only be tyrannising us a little bit.

The new Omicron variant of Covid-19— named to avoid offending China’s sensitive dictator, by skipping the next Greek letter in the sequence, “Xi” — has prompted the UK government to re-impose travel bans, quarantine, and mask mandates in businesses and on public transport. But despite insistence from politicians on both sides of Parliament that “It’s just a mask,” forcing face-coverings on the public do not come without a cost.

The evidence behind the efficacy of these restrictions is spurious at best. An American Institute of Physics study found droplets coughed can spread around, and permeate through, loose-fitting cloth and disposable paper masks. Dr. Colin Axon has warned Covid-19 particulates are “5000 times” smaller than the holes in the microfibres of cloth and disposable paper masks. Therefore, masks are little more than “comfort blankets” which signify social solidarity to others also afraid of new variants and complying with state edicts.

Mask mandates and lockdowns have not been enforced in Florida; with Governor DeSantis instead focusing on making therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies available for the state’s elderly population. Florida reported the lowest cases per capita in the U.S.A. last week, and only one death with Covid-19. Conversely, Germany and Austria have mandated medical-grade FFP2 masks be worn in all public spaces, and are currently experiencing a 44 per cent surge in cases. So severe is this increase, that politicians are throwing civil liberties to the wind, and making vaccination legally mandatory. It should not come as a surprise that even these masks aren’t fool-proof: an American Society for Microbiology study found “(surgical masks and even N95 masks) could not completely block the transmission of virus droplets/aerosols even when sealed.”

But even if we are just making people feel safe, there’s no harm in that, is there?

There are human and environmental costs involved in producing, distributing, and disposing of this inordinate amount of PPE. Sweat-shops have switched from stitching cheap clothing for fast fashion, to making masks. Almost as if rewarded for unleashing Covid on the world, China has become the global leader in producing PPE equipment.

Of the 58.8 million masks used daily, at the height of the pandemic in the UK, 53.3 million were sent to landfill. 129 billion masks were worn globally each month, and 90 per cent of those were discarded. That’s 3 million binned each minute. If everyone in the UK used one face mask every day for a year, we would produce 66,000 tonnes of additional contaminated waste, and 57,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.

(Bear in mind that there are no medical waste bins specifically for masks; and when students attempted to install them in parks in Leeds, they were removed as “health and safety hazard[s].”)

The microfibre density of masks make them a worse problem for microplastic water contamination, and have a longer decay life, than plastic bags. Each blue single-use mask takes 450 years to bio-degrade. For all the talk of plastic pollution in our seas, world leaders neglect to mention how their mask mandates have caused masks to outnumber jellyfish in our oceans.

The Marine Conservation Society found masks in 30 per cent of beach clean-ups and 69 per cent of inland litter pick-ups. The RSPCA have urged wearers to snip the straps, following birds found strangled and entangled in discarded masks. And this is to say nothing of the emissions produced by the logistics industry when delivering these products. Politicians’ environmental obsessions only extend as far as policies which make them look good.

It is also worth remembering that these mandates are enforced by law. Without citing a medical exemption, Brits will be fined for not waring a mask inside private businesses, salons, taxis, and on trains and tubes. If you don’t pay the fine? Presumably, a stay in prison, which doesn’t sound all that beneficial for your health. Putting the state’s monopoly on force behind wrapping your nose and mouth in a piece of permeable cloth makes about as much sense as the Netherlands’ police firing live rounds at protesters for not being vaccinated. Why are the government obsessed with tyrannising you over your own immune system?

Better yet: why don’t MPs abide by their own restrictions? Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi presented the Teachers Awards in a room of mask-less attendees; days before the same teachers are set to force schoolkids to wear masks. The Prime Minister didn’t feel the need to mask up at a lunch on Monday, after announcing these restrictions. Nobody in the Labour party felt masks were necessary when out clubbing at their annual conference. It’s almost as if face coverings are props in a political theatre our politicians insist on doing a fourth encore of, despite boos from their freedom-loving audience.

As Chris Whitty let slip, the British public are fatigued with being infantilised by government policy which regards personal responsibility as “reckless.” Some supermarkets have recognised this: the Co-Op and Iceland are refusing to remove customers from stores who shop without masks.

I encourage the British public to inspect the litany of exemptions for the mask mandates that the government has posted to the Covid guidance website. If the unnecessary costs, excess pollution, and incursions on civil liberties caused by these mask laws induce “severe distress” in you, then snip the straps on these ineffective muzzles, and walk around with your face uncovered like humans have done since time immemorial.


  • Connor Tomlinson

    Connor Tomlinson is the Head of Research at the British Conservation Alliance, and a political commentator with Young Voices UK. He appears regularly in C3 Magazine, AIER, and on talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Con_Tomlinson

Written by Connor Tomlinson

Connor Tomlinson is the Head of Research at the British Conservation Alliance, and a political commentator with Young Voices UK. He appears regularly in C3 Magazine, AIER, and on talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter: @Con_Tomlinson

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