On Monday, as I went out to run an errand, I saw that life appeared to be getting back to normal on our high (main) street, post-coronavirus.

The local cafés had opened to allow customers indoors for a sit-down service. The inviting aromas of hot lunches perfumed the air.

I silently rejoiced that, after three months, normality was finally returning to our streets.

I no sooner returned home when I learned through the media that Health Secretary Matt (‘I’m from Newmarket’) Hancock planned to announce an anti-normality measure on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 — mandatory face coverings effective July 24:

The nightly newscasts confirmed this — at 6 p.m. …

… and 10 p.m.:

Hancock was not alone in choosing July 14 to make that announcement. France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran made a similar announcement that day: mandatory face coverings in all enclosed spaces effective August 1.

Returning to England, Matt Hancock made his announcement from the despatch box in the House of Commons early in the afternoon on Tuesday.

There were two dissensions.

The first came from Peter Bone MP (Conservative, Wellingborough and Rushden). He rightly asked why Hancock’s department provided information to the media about the new mandate before the health secretary presented it to Parliament.

Hancock gave a brusque answer, replying that he (Hancock) was doing it right then.

One can assume only that Peter Bone approves of mandatory face coverings, as he retweeted a government video about it:

The second dissension came from the flamboyant Sir Desmond Swayne (Conservative, New Forest West). He said everything necessary:

Parliamentary sketch writer Michael Deacon filed this report for The Telegraph (emphases mine):

Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping,” erupted Sir Desmond, “than the thought of having to mask up!

Too right.

Just when my far better half and I were ready to venture out to shops, including the garden centres, this mad rule comes in. We are now rethinking our long-anticipated sorties.

Swayne continued:

“Was this consultation with the police force,” he fumed, “and in particular with the chief constable of Hampshire? For it is she who will have to enforce this monstrous imposition – he spat out this phrase as if it were a maggot in a mouthful of apple – “this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!”

I felt like applauding him as I watched him on BBC Parliament.

Hancock found this amusing. One wonders if he was bullied at school. He has made the most authoritarian pronouncements from his appearances in the government’s daily coronavirus briefings to those at the despatch box in Parliament.

This was his reply:

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, told Sir Desmond that it had been “a difficult balance to strike” between the need to defeat the virus, and “the ancient liberty of a gentleman to go shopping”. But in the end, said the Health Secretary, the Government had decided that this ancient liberty could be protected by “requiring the gentleman to wear a mask”.

Pah.

Swayne was unimpressed:

To judge from his expression, Sir Desmond was neither persuaded nor amused. He was smouldering like a dragon’s nostril.

Note that this is being brought in when England’s coronavirus deaths are at their lowest point since the first week of March:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original image — not mine — is here.

On Wednesday, Hancock reiterated his resolve (a favourite word of his). The Telegraph reported that we might have cover up until summer 2021:

Rules requiring members of the public to wear face masks in shops and on public transport could remain in place until next summer, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted, as he warned they will be required for the “foreseeable future”.

Asked whether the rules may be in place into next year, Mr Hancock refused to rule it out, instead insisting that the UK needs to “see how we are doing on getting a vaccine”.

Oh, the vaccine, the vaccine! Words fail me.

But, wait. There could be more to come.

That Telegraph piece has this as a subhead:

Next stop, masks in offices

I would not doubt it.

Masks are known to cause hypoxia and hypercapnia. Healthy people can deprive themselves of oxygen by wearing unnecessary face coverings. Hypercapnia — having too much CO2 in one’s blood — is another hazard that results from improper breathing because one’s mouth is covered.

A small upside is that face coverings will become a means of self-expression.

Here is the svelte, slim health minister of Belgium. I wouldn’t take her health advice on anything. Furthermore, her mask is unfortunate, to say the least:

On Monday night, I read a lot of readers’ comments to the Telegraph articles concerning mandatory face coverings.

The hostility of the pro-mask people reminded me of that of Remainers’ during the run-up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. Scary. All emotion, very little fact.

Anti-maskers, on the other hand, pointed to civil liberties and the likelihood that we will be objectifying each other in the coming months because we cannot see each others’ faces.

Personally, I think crime will go up because of it. All it takes is a masked bandit or two robbing small shops.

There is also a Left-Right split on masks.

A left-wing organisation, Masks4All, is promoting homemade face coverings. Its founders include Greens and an Extinction Rebellion activist.

The University of Edinburgh’s Linda Bauld is also a mandatory face covering advocate. Linda Bauld made her name in Tobacco Control.

Bauld disapproves of visors — allowing people to breathe under a transparent barrier — because they do not allow enough protection. On May 18, The Guardian quoted her:

Bauld said she was sceptical. “The reason for having a visor which would cover the upper half of your face would be if you’re regularly coming into contact with the public at closer range, and you might be exposed to somebody who is emitting those small droplets that we’re all aware are very efficient at carrying the virus,” she said.

“So I could see how in some retail settings and other environments they wish to do that, but I don’t think there’s any strong evidence that they’re something the public should be wearing on a routine basis. The key thing is to cover the mouth and the nose.

“The face coverings that people are being encouraged to use, for example, on public transport is not to protect the wearer, but to protect other people. Whereas the visor and harder material is clearly to protect the wearer from coming into contact with others at those droplets.”

On July 13, she advocated the dreaded ‘nudge’:

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said: “Requiring it just gives that little extra nudge and it’s much clearer for the public.”

Anyone who wants people such as this controlling their lives — control being the operative word, as it has been with tobacco — can have at it. Smokers have said for years that Tobacco Control can use their blueprint for any other ‘health’ advocacy issue, from bans on salt and sugar to … well, we’d never have guessed it … mandatory face coverings.

We will just have to play by the rules rather than risk a police-enforceable £100 fine (half-off if one pays within 14 days).

If more people shop online than in the high street, I hope that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will bring that to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attention. We need shops and personal discretion, not a useless policy from Matt Hancock, who, at the best of times, sounds like a second-rate headmaster.

I will have more on the dubious efficacy of masks soon.