I’m a doctor and I don’t like wearing masks at work. Does that make me selfish?
It is rare for me to disagree with George Monbiot, but I must do so when he suggests that all those who wish to taper off some of the Covid restrictions are selfish (We are all playing Covid roulette. Without clean air, the next infection could permanently disable you, 26 January). As a frontline healthcare worker, I am against the ongoing requirement for mask-wearing in all clinical areas, for the simple reason that there appears to be no concept of when it will end. I wish to be able to connect with the people around me when I’m at work, a place I spend most of my waking hours.
Transmission of respiratory pathogens has always occurred, yet in the past we have reserved mask-wearing for the most high-risk situations, such as around those with tuberculosis or severe immunosuppression. Now it appears that social connection has been sacrificed permanently in favour of some victory in the battle between humanity and microbes. This may turn out to be the most important war humans have ever faced. Yet if it is worth sacrificing the ability to see another person’s face, why are only healthcare workers doing it? And, if it is not, when can NHS workers expect to be able to join the rest of the country and have permission to converse with people we can see, while they too can see us?
Paediatric intensive care doctor, London
• The rapid decline of mask-wearing in crowded places is another colossal failure of government health policy. Covid protection messaging represented a chance to permanently adopt the sensible, altruistic and prosocial Asian habit of wearing a mask to protect others from infection. In 2020, the government delayed for months – at the cost of countless lives – before reluctantly promoting this measure.
In March 2020, I started making fabric masks, researching materials and designs as I went along, and gifting them to family, friends, food banks and influencers. I kept going, making more than 500, until – belatedly – fabric masks and N95 masks were widely available. I still wear a mask on public transport and other risky places, partly to remind others that it is still kind and responsible to do so. Anyone who clapped for the NHS and wants to protect it should do the same.
Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham
• George Monbiot’s concerns over long-term Covid and repeating Covid are very well grounded, but there is a related, and key aspect of Covid in the UK that he doesn’t mention. This country, for months now, has been the worst in western Europe for Covid deaths per million people. According to the reputable authority Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Norway has a death rate less than a third of the UK’s. Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands all have lower death rates than we have. Had the UK done as well as Germany in controlling the virus, we would have had thousands fewer deaths than the 217,000 we have endured to date. The government’s record on Covid is shamefully poor.
• Well said, George Monbiot! “My mask protects you, your mask protects me” has become “my liberty infects you”. This has to change before anyone can say the pandemic is anywhere near over – I write as someone who is approaching her third anniversary of shielding.