The curious case of face masks and expert opinions

In this year’s Reith lectures the BBC lecturer stylishly follows every trope and statement of the global elite without a single criticism or original negative thought about them. We are treated to yet another repetitious re statement of climate change, Build Back better, and conventional anti Covid ideology. There was no examination of the populist critiques to see if they had anything useful to tell us.

Dr Carney did admit that in the UK at least official guidance on the wearing of face masks changed during the course of the pandemic. Official scientific advice and government rules spent the first period of lockdown telling us masks had little or no value and were not recommended. They then switched to saying masks might have benefits and were required in many locations. Dr Carney turned this into an example of how expert opinion can evolve and reflect changing research. This rare example of error corrected did not alter all the central tenets of globalism where everything else was firm, obvious and not to change. “The science is settled”!

It is such a pity there was no exploration of this example – one amongst many – of expert advice and policy changing substantially. For if he had paused to ask why and how, he could have explored the paradox of the advice in the early weeks of the pandemic. At the very same time they told the public masks would not help, they went on a frantic buying spree to secure more and better masks for the workers in the NHS and elsewhere most exposed to the dangers of the virus. Why should this be if masks were of little or no use?

You do not need to be a doctoral scientist to see and feel that wearing a mask does capture a lot of the moisture on your breath when breathing out, and would also stop some of the water vapour in the atmosphere around you getting into your nose. Whilst doubtless most masks of loose weave do not filter all examples of a tiny virus they are barriers for some amounts of the water vapour that may be carrying more of it. You will also see that to be able to breathe a lot of your air needs to be expelled somehow from the mask. The mask also clearly reduces the force of your breath, directing it away from anyone you may be looking at. Of course we all saw the priority need to give NHS workers bravely tackling virus attacks the best possible barriers to prevent virus getting into their lungs or eyes or mouths. So why the odd advice that masks were not helpful for the rest of us?

One good explanation would be that the officials wanted to ensure all available masks were provided to the NHS and then Care homes, so they needed to reduce the demands of everyone else. Were that true it would have been better to say that, and to have banned or reduced most individual purchases whilst they stocked up for the priority cases. It was not such a good idea to say the science tells us masks are not much use, when their actions implied they thought the opposite.

This is just one small recent example of how the official line can lose force with some of the public because it not only changes but it seems at times to be self contradictory.

Dr Carney did not of course wish to talk in his Reith lectures about all the items where some of us have been critical of the economic forecasts and actions of the Bank of England both before he led it and during his tenure. I have often written about the failures of their ERM policy, their wildly pessimistic Brexit forecasts and his strategy of forward guidance which usually gave markets the wrong answer.

What we need from our recently retired senior officials is some honest analysis of what they got right and what went wrong, to keep up their claim to have better insights and wisdom than the rest of us. It would also be refreshing to hear that in everything from science and medicine to economics and behavioural sciences there remain doubts. Mistakes do need to be corrected, and there should be big debates going on to improve our knowledge.

One of the worst features of the global consensus is its smug belief that it has all the answers and they are not going to change. They imply anyone who disagrees is just stupid. One of the best features of much needed expertise is the professional disagreements which if properly acknowledged can lead to better understandings.

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73 Comments

  1. SM
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    I recall reading, many years ago, that in the first decade of the C20th some internationally renowned scientist declared that human knowledge had reached its peak, and that there would be no further developments in medicine and technology.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Dear SM–You may be referring to Kelvin and “the end of Physics” but “It was an error he never made”

      • SM
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Thanks Leslie, happy to stand corrected.

        Oddly, I am currently reading Lady Longford’s biography of the Duke of Wellington, and she maintains that he never made any reference to Waterloo having been won on the playing fields of Eton, it was a tale that slowly grew after his death.

      • Hope
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        JR,
        Denmark has published its latest study, I thought you were not talking Chinese virusmon Thursday?

  2. Nig l
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    As soon as I read who was giving the hector other channels became vastly more attractive.

  3. DOM
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    The BBC is now a political and activist organisation working and colluding with Labour and their allies. The fact that we are lawfully required to fund this makes it all the more detestable and abusive. Moreover, the fact that your party’s been in power since 2010 and have watched these developments without intervention is beyond all comprehension unless we assume your party is now in bed with Labour and their ideology

    We see the same development taking place across all areas of Labour’s client state. The NHS is now political. It sees its role as interventionist. The police have become political in nature and that should concern us all. The civil service is beyond reform

    And yet, your party while being in power for a decade and having the ability to impose change allows it to happen or I suspect actively participates in this project

    It is the deceit of both parties that they present themselves as having two different visions when in fact they’re indistinguishable from one another. Embracing all that has gone before and then going further because ‘there’s more to be done’. The screech of the fascist progressive.

    We now five years of CRT infused Marxism to come from across the Atlantic. That extremism has already filtered through to the UK. This process will accelerate causing further deep seated resentment and division

    The Tories refusal to confront fascist left extremism and activism of all forms out of fear is causing untold damage

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      Your problem – as with many here – is that you do not make the crucial distinction between absolutes and relatives where needed.

      Masks can never prevent 100% of transmission, but even a simple cloth covering reduces its likelihood by over 90%.

      That would mean that if everyone wore them in all public and collective places, and assiduously observed the other measures too, then R would be well below one, and the infection would die out.

      The Government cannot organise the supply of the quantities needed, and so instead relies on their press to discredit the approach altogether to save them the opprobrium.

      • Edward2
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        People are wearing them whenever I go out in public.
        If your 90% is correct how is it that figures are going up?

        • Alan Paul Joyce
          Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          Dear Mr. Redwood,

          Dear @Edward2,

          It is clear that @Martin in Cardiff is an expert on, well, everything. Mr. Redwood describes such people in this very article whereby they like to think of themselves as part of the global elite where the science is settled and no criticism can be tolerated. He believes he has all the answers and they are not going to change. And anyone who disagrees is just plain stupid.

          • Hope
            Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            Dom/JR, we read Johnson has made another U-turn and is not decriminalizing themBBC Marxist tax. Why not?

            Is this more proof of the fake criticism by the Fake Tory Party. It actually supports the promotion of the left wing culturally Marxist propaganda from the BBC?

          • DavidJ
            Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

            +1

          • Mike Durrans
            Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

            + 100. So right

      • Philip P.
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        No random control trial of whether face masks prevent transmission has yet been published. Your 90% figure is unscientific conjecture, Martin.

        The Danish RCT of whether mask-wearing makes you significantly less likely to catch Covid found that it did not.

        Various countries that mandated mask-wearing early had just as high an incidence of Covid as others that did not.

        Your problem, as ever, is that you won’t look objectively at international comparisons.

        • James Bertram
          Posted December 24, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          +1

      • Dee
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Nurses and doctors have got the best of the available masks and yet around 14,000 are unavailable for work because they have tested positive. Further more, 30+% of all covid patients are nosocomial. They caught it in Hospital. Which as far as I am concerned means masks for the ordinary person is worse than useless because it can lead to Hypoxia which of course is dangerous. What is simpler to understand is that because you are able to breath out the covid virus is able to get in\out too.
        There is a dark reason behind all this that Boris is colluding in. No Government kills off it’s own Countries Commerce. I think the ‘Great Reset’ could well be true.

  4. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The expert advice changes all the time. I tend to go with common sense. Half the time it’s all contradictory anyway.

  5. Sea_Warrior
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    1. Regarding the BBC, the government has a large enough majority to do something about the Beeb’s appalling bias. Why won’t it?
    2. Yesterday, I looked at the deaths/million figures on the Worldometer’s COVID pages. The figures for countries like Japan, Singapore and Taiwan are shockingly LOW. Part of the reason, I would assume, is that the residents there are very good at masking-up. The government’s inaction on the matter was inexcusable. Similarly, the recognition of loss of smell and taste took far too long.
    3. The New Year needs to bring a re-shuffle. Hancock, Williamson, Shapps and Patel all need the push. And so does the PM.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      When I am out and about in London I note that the population is also good at masking up. I don’t think that masks are a panacea tending to agree with Sir John that they are likely to have a moderate effect in the way a goal net will stop many balls smaller than its holes nut not all.

      Taiwan, Japan and Singapore have hotter climates than us, in the Summer our cases reduces dramatically. There are also fewer fatties in those countries.

      • Martin W D T Ward
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        The observations in your final paragraph are most illuminating – thank you.

      • Dee
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Your comment raises a good point. Covid is like the flu a seasonal thing that become increasingly prevalent in the cold weather, yes? So why have the far East Countries been hit so hard? Why has the South American Countries been hit so hard? They are all hot Countries. Look how bad it has been for India?

    • Dee
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      But that cannot be true! Chinese & Japanese people have been masking up for years before the covid came along because of the pollution levels in their Countries so if masks were the answer, why did so many of them catch covid?

  6. Alan Jutson
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Interesting comment about masks, although most of the general population now seem to be using reusable and washable face coverings, made up of all sorts of materials with little or no standards, but most are still happy that they will offer some protection !

    • Simeon
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      I would guess that in many cases the protection people are interested in is from the authorities. There are of course no standards – other than that mouth AND nose should be covered – and most people aren’t making an effort to source an effective face mask because they don’t see the need. Given the way face masks and other coverings are (mis)used (I see lots of people in my work wearing masks), it is clear to me that they do more harm than good, being repositories of germs that are repeatedly handled, but with little to no hand-washing. And that’s not even to mention the way they inhibit normal breathing. A pity Sir John came down on the side of face masks being a good thing.

      ReplyI have not expressed a view myself on masks. Was analysing official view

      • beresford
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Absolutely. Unless you’re sneezing or coughing, wearing a face mask is a symbol of submission to the Government’s covid regime, and the sort of people who sneeze and cough in public without covering their mouths are unlikely to wear a mask as they do it. As I have pointed out before, in Wales you have to wear a four-ply mask whereas in England anything will do as long as you make the gesture of covering your face.

        • Alan Jutson
          Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

          beresford

          Given the spread of the virus in Wales.perhaps not a good example for a four ply face mask to be worn, as it does not seem to have done much good.

          But we will never really know, without them it may have been better or far worse.

          The import ant thing is to wear them properly and in the right place.

        • Simeon
          Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

          I didn’t know the Welsh had that regulation. Totally unenforceable of course. But at least it’s somewhat coherent medically. But as you suggest, a face mask is in essence a face nappy for those unable to take the nedessary action in the event of a cough or a sneeze. As such, they are perfectly emblenatic of the infantilisation of the populace.

      • James Bertram
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Sir John – your analysis is predicated on the incorrect assumption that masks are useful. There was a study a few years back whereby even surgeons did not regard masks as being useful in their occupation. The official line that masks were not useful was the correct one. In fact, there is much evidence that mask-wearing is extremely harmful (hypoxia, particularly -= which can lead to shortening your life, early onset dementia and retarding brain development in children). The evidence that masks are not useful needs to be your starting point.

        You then need to ask did the government advocate masks for NHS staff out of media pressure, panic, and the need to be seen to do something?

        The advocating of general mask-usage came in July; and BBC reportage suggests that there was no supporting medical evidence for that policy change by the WHO but it was due to ‘political lobbying’. Governments had, by now, universally adopted the Great Reset agenda. They wanted to maintain the fear of the virus although it was largely over (Virus over by May – Dr Mike Yeardon). Too, they adopted mass-testing PCR of the public to maintain the threat of the virus – a ‘casedemic’ of false positives; and too, spread the false idea of asymptomatic spread (See Dr Claire Craig – Conservative Woman – Evidence for asymptomatic spread is woeful).

        The mask is a visible symbol in the population that there is a continuing threat from a virus (that is largely over); and that compliance with government diktat is the moral and sensible action for the people to follow. It’s purpose is not medical but political. Mask-wearing is no more than an ill-informed cult.

        Reply I did not express a view myself as to whether masks are a good idea or not. I have not researched it and it raises a number of medical issues that could benefit from that expertise.

        • Simeon
          Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Reply to reply

          Perhaps not explicitly, though there is a clear indication of where your sympathies are. But as James Bertram says, it’s not the medical aspect of face masks that is the real issue, but the political.

          Reply I have never proposed masks or recommended them but want more evidence

          • Zorro
            Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

            Reply to reply – JR, it is best to read the quite large number of RCTs which have taken place over the last 30 years examining the effect of mask wearing in combatting respiratory diseases. The latest one was from Denmark by a pro-masker (studiously avoided by several well known medical journals) and it showed along with the vast majority of others that they have little to no effect in combatting the threat from respiratory infections. The problem is that there are consequences about how they are worn or give a false sense of security which compromise efforts to distance and maintain hand hygiene. Mask wearing has become a sign of submission, virtue signalling, a political totem pole….

            zorro

      • Mike Durrans
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        The government requirement is for a” face covering” I have sourced a walkers snood, a light knitted tube that is easy to breath through. It is only a visible excuse that stops morons in shops getting all worked up but affords me comfortable breathing. It complies with the government diktat JUST! Stops draughts like a scarf on cold days so it will still be of use when this fiasco is finished

    • Chris Dark
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Masks do nothing. Water vapour puffs out all around them, you can see it in this cold weather now. Even people standing six feet apart get surrounded by clouds of breath from others. It is a farce. Aaand, aren’t these masks supposedly biohazards? Why then are they discarded in public waste-bins, on the roads and under hedges? Folk have them in their pockets, they put them on, take them off and back into pocket. Virus therefore supposedly all over hands as a result. Stale hot breath is also not the ideal environment for health and wellness; bad for the blood and brain.
      I won’t wear one, I never swallowed the propaganda about “protecting others”. As a result I cannot enter shops, but I have survived well enough. Viruses pass through masks both ways, nothing can stop them. The fear that has been instilled into this nation is profoundly disturbing and will take a long time to cure.

      • Simeon
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Sir, you absolutely can enter shops. Those not wearing masks should be presumed exempt. If challenged, you can claim exemption, for example on the grounds that wearing one would cause emotional distress. This is entirely legitimate. Though, if challenged, you could just as easily say that your challenger shoukd not be asking. As you say, it’s a farce.

      • Jim Whitehead
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        +1
        Masks, distancing, lockdowns, firebreaks, etc., etc. all achieve Nothing.
        Nothing, that is, by way of measurable therapeutic value.
        The effects in a social sense are as yet immeasurable but well worthy of debate, a debate that will not be chaired by the BBC.

      • RichardP
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        +1
        Observing how people use masks I believe they are helping to spread the virus rather than suppress it.
        Much safer to stay out of shops until this nonsense stops. Unfortunately town centres will probably be abandoned by then.

      • Mike Durrans
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        +1

  7. Simeon
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    So why do you continue to support a party whose purpose is to unthinkingly implement the global consensus? Perhaps the answer is that this was a price you were willing to pay up until Brexit got done. We’ll soon find out.

  8. formula57
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    “It was not such a good idea to say the science tells us masks are not much use, when their actions implied they thought the opposite.” – exactly so! This was a lesson learned in the 1918/19 pandemic, that the public needs to be told the truth or else the credibility of those giving messages is eroded.

  9. formula57
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    “One of the worst features of the global consensus is its smug belief that it has all the answers and they are not going to change.” – true, and of course calls forth “We don’t believe you!” thinking as well as providing sublime moments when the consensus is obliged to recant.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Authoritarians are all smug.

  10. oldtimer
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Anyone who does not toe the BBC party line will not be invited to deliver the Reith lecture. As for “the science is settled” this is brainwashing language to persuade ( often through fear) the gullible lemmings to do as they are told by the ruling elite. As was pointed out many years ago the laws of science are a best guess until replaced by a better guess which demolishes the earlier best guess.

  11. Sakara Gold
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    The government panicked and clutched at straws, recommending all sorts of nonsense to the public.

    At the begining of the crisis, when it became apparent that the Chinese plague virus was spreading uncontrollably, Johnson was finally persuaded to attend a COBR meeting. After hours of discussion a Sky News banner ran the headline “virus death rate rising uncontrollably; hospitals overwhelmed; Johnson recommends public washes their hands more often…..”

  12. George Brooks.
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    The general direction of the climate change/green lobby is right. It is the implementation that is crass.

    Instead of wrecking the car industry and trying to convert us to using an electric toy run-about, concentrate on China, India and the many grossly over crowded countries around the world and get them to significantly reduce their carbon footprint by switching from coal and scrapping their millions of gas-guzzling, polluting old vehicles. If you want to solve a problem go to the heart of it and not fiddle around the edges.

    Give our scientists and engineers the time and space to develop the vehicles and heat pumps that properly replace the combustion engine and boilers that we use today instead of trying to push us back to where we were in the 1890s

    Allow all buildings to put solar panels on any roof and scrap the constraints of Listing and AONB. The list goes on and it will take us into a carbon free world without destroying our lives and those of our children

    The Carneys of this world would be better employed plotting a sensible and practical course to a carbon free future instead of standing on a platform banging a drum.

    • Big John
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      You still seem to have bought into this carbon is a problem rubbish.
      Life on this planet would cease to exist without carbon.

      • Mike Durrans
        Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        Totally agree, even George Brooks’ body has a carbon base, but then they really mean CO2 the plant food which is a trace element that is good for the planet. The science is not settled as the green brigade are wrong

  13. margaret howard
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    JR

    “One of the worst features of the global consensus is its smug belief that it has all the answers and they are not going to change. They imply anyone who disagrees is just stupid”
    ====

    But isn’t that what you and your ilk are guilty of in droves?

    But I love reading your daily blog and especially the comments section. And no, although I disagree with many of them I don’t think you are stupid. Just count yourselves lucky we still live in a society where we can agree to be different without facing the persecution and even martyrdom of previous centuries.

    I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    • Edward2
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      The problem is that increasingly these people (mainly on the left) want to ban or no platform or shout down or get sacked any person who fails to hold these global consensus opinions.
      This creeping trend is seen in our education establishments and public sector where arguing against the consensus views means a low chance of career success.
      Add in the hate crime laws, soon to be made more draconian, and your freedoms and mine are being rapidly eroded.

    • Mike Durrans
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      And happy Christmas to you Margaret, I take it that you believe the GOD delusion but every one is entitled to their opinions and I have fought all my life to defend free speech

  14. Bryan Harris
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Interesting comments.

    That we get experts who we cannot contradict without being savagely attacked is clear evidence that establishment experts cannot be trusted.

    Science by its definition is a growing expanding knowledge — There is no such thing as a ‘fixed science’ – that is for charlatans.

    On the subject of masks, and changing advice. I fear this was down to one thing: Control of people. Enforced wearing of masks became a symbol. They are something tangible those scared out of their wits by a constant barrage of media propaganda can cling to as some sort of solution, even if they are not.

    There are certainly different views on how effective masks are, or how dangerous they can be, but if masks and lockdowns are the answer, why are the statistics allegedly so bad? Can we believe the figures, if so then Plan-A is not working — WHERE is plan-B?
    It is not possible to believe that the virus is being spread by the tiny amount of people that do not stick with guidelines.

    Globalists are clearly behind all of this conformity across the world. No longer can a country decide its own course, it seems. Our decisions are plotted out for us and imposed upon us — That is the way of the new world order and the great reset. Democracy is old hat now and will be completely discarded very soon.

    • Marvin
      Posted December 28, 2020 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I totally agree with you, as do a great number of other people. We have established that the most dedicated believers of this pseudo-fantasy are those who spend hours watching television, while a great number who do not submit to it are younger people with little interest in television, preferring alternative forms of electronic communication. Although now, there are a large number of the population who have started to question the restrictions that we are being forcibly advised to adhere to. I only hope that this activity will not be repeated in the future – it is futile and has no purpose except to create distrust in those who promote it.

  15. forthurst
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    The ‘global consensus’ is what the globalists want the sheeple to believe; Carney is a good poster boy for the ‘globalist elite’ insofar as he’s not obviously of alien stock whereas the typical ‘globalist’ is simply an Asiatic in the wrong place and without whose ministrations we all would be far better off, going back a very long time.

    There is only one solution to globalist troublemaking and that is a resurgence in nationalism in the West because nationalism for them is like garlic to a vampire.

  16. Christine
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Our entire way of living has become unsustainable. Our levels of debt, our demands on eco-systems and our use of fossil fuels. World Government’s know this but they are using this pandemic to protect the super-rich. Over the last year, the World’s billionaires have become richer at the expense of ordinary people. Ask yourself:

    1) Why were the Nightingale hospitals built at great expense and fanfare but have now been secretly dismantled before the so-called pandemic is over?
    2) Why have contracts been given dubious sources? (I know of this from personal experience)
    3) Why are alternative eminent experts being censored?
    4) Why are more lockdowns imposed when they obviously aren’t working?
    5) Why are we trashing our economy to reduce a relatively few extra deaths in the elderly when most have the choice to self-isolate?
    6) Why has the BBC not been reigned in from its obvious bias and propaganda spewing output?

    My belief is that any Government with the mission statement Build Back Better is complicit with this global elite agenda and they have only just started.

    • RichardP
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Another great post Christine

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Not so sure about the fossil fuel comment though. Not when I see the destruction harvesting rare earth minerals is doing to cerain parts of the world and the rights of very young workers. (Children)

    • Mike Durrans
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Marvin
      Posted December 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Our entire way of living has become unsustainable. Our levels of debt, our demands on eco-systems and our use of fossil fuels. World Government’s know this but they are using this pandemic to protect the super-rich. Over the last year, the World’s billionaires have become richer at the expense of ordinary people. Ask yourself:

      No – way off! Our levels of debt are virtual and can be written off, the eco system has been ignored for decades – who cares if the tiniest of insects are important to human foods – and the volume of fossil fuels cannot be possibly known for there have been insufficient searches.

      Research into pandemics began in 1997 in the USA, John Hopkins University and several students have been researching this regularly over the years. With the global depression progressing, trade restrictions on China etc., the value of the American dollar began to decline. In a White paper issued by congress in 2018 I think, , it is stated that there has been insufficient investment made for Health emergencies such as a Pandemic. John Hopkins furtheredits studies into pandemics by creating an electronic model of a pandemic. Such a model is impossible, for like Climate – human activity and functions are chaotic, there can ne er be a pattern to these events so they cannot be programmed. But try they did and coincidentally, we are facing a pandemic, which was not a pandemic as it was reduced to an epidemic, for which numbers were over estimated several times. The pandemic was spread due to Chinese people returning from infected areas after the Chinese New year – but they had programmed into the computer the date of the previous year’s Chinese New Year. (The Chinese New Year falls on different dates depending on the year) not the date of the 2020 New Year. Consequently, the pandemic was spreading before the Chinese returned. Embarrassing – but not if you ignored that little detail – anyway long story short – shortages of PPE and additional hospital equipment etc., etc., gave a kick start to the global economy and of course a new vaccine developed by an American company, allied with a German company will cost around £10 a shot.

  17. Caterpillar
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I cannot comment on the lectures. I do like Sir John’s observations and final concluding paragraph.

    In terms of disagreements leading to better understanding, this is where I have been extremely worried by the Johnson Govt in dealing with the Covid epidemic. Often rational people with different views based on different evidence or interpretation thereof, can take a very long time to convince each other, if ever. However, I expected that the Govt would take differing views, and differing perspectives (not just science, but risk management, operations management, economics, etc.) and from these would synthesise its policy. Unfortunately all we have heard is “follow the science”, which is a dangerous thing to state without an experiential understanding of how science operates.

    It appears that Johnson, Hancock, Sunak, Gove irresponsibly committed to a consensus view, putting themselves in the position of requiring a slow, if ever, change of position. They should not be in this state, they should be making judgements based on broad evidence and multiple perspectives brought to them. They appear to have trapped themselves, as scientists often do – not the right kind of following.

    • DavidJ
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Wil Pretty
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I have little faith in Carney coming up with good solutions.
      The governments track record on climate change policies is only average.
      There was the dash for gas. That worked out well, gas electricity generation is very efficient and the countries CO2 emission was reduced.
      The transition to diesel was also a move to greater efficiency, however that failed once particulates levels trumped CO2 as an environmental hazard.
      Accurate prediction of future needs is not possible.

  18. Caterpillar
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I think the cases of vitamin D and masks are both worth examining.
    Vitamin D prophylaxis for covid-19 has again been rejected by NICE, with a recommendation for controlled trials. This is scientific thinking; risk management thinking would note that for the majority vitamin D supplementation is very low risk (particularly in a UK winter) and low cost. Given the retrospective studies and the higher vitamin D levels in Asian diets together with green tea consumption as a zinc ionophore, then recommendation and provision for those at moderate risk (over 50, over 65?) should be a no-brainer. The level of proof depends upon the context, this is different to science.
    Masks also tell an interesting story. When there was a strong belief (for whatever reason) that transmission on surface and by touch to nose/eyes it seemed reasonable to recommend hand-washing (a good general practice!) and not masks which encouraged face touching. Perhaps this was false messaging to keep masks available for health care workers. Once the consensus view was that the majority of transmission was via virus containing droplets in shared air, then the argument for masks changed a little bit, and in particular when the belief in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic infection was accepted then the idea of wearing masks to protect others was rolled out. Assuming droplet spread is the dominant transmission form this conclusion has still been critiqued; (i) asymptomatic transmission is minimal, the vast majority of transmission is within a 5 or 6 day infectious period largely simultaneous with symptoms (concerted effort should be made on isolation of symptomatics), (ii) masks encourage symptomatic people to not isolate, (iii) masks encourage people to reduce social distancing even when wearing thin ineffective masks, (iv) some fabrics break larger droplets into smaller droplets which travel further. I am not giving an opinion on these specific criticisms, but it does appear that masks, social distancing and lockdowns have become a focus rather than the problem that are trying to solve.

  19. Caterpillar
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Putting to one side the economic, social and ethical arguments (which we shouldn’t) and assuming droplets are the transmission mechanism, it seems the short run problems to be solved remain:
    1. How to identify the infectious (in a timely and spatially appropriate manner)?
    2. How to reduce the chance of the infectious from infecting those most likely to die / suffer badly from the virus?
    3. How to reduce the potential consequences of infection?
    4. How to support and treat those infected?
    5. How to reduce the number of infectious?
    Framing the problem as a war on a virus (beating the virus) or as a zero virus outcome, looked at from within only a scientific and epidemiological perspective has, I think, ignored other routes to address these questions.

  20. Will Jones
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Surgical masks used properly in hospitals etc have been shown to have some benefit, though it is disputed.

    Cloth or even surgical masks in wider community use have not been shown to have any benefit.

    This is what the studies show. Public policy is based on something else.

    • James Bertram
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your articles in Lockdown Sceptics and Conservative Woman, Will – we all learn a lot from your well-researched writing. Keep going (KBO).

  21. alastair harris
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I believe there was a time when the Reith lectures might have been worth a listen. Or is that just my rose tinted glasses?

  22. Trevor Quinton
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    With respect, science is never settled and people saying so are demonstrating that they will not consider new evidence or enter into debate. They are not being scientific.

    • john waugh
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      Exactly !
      I wish for a public platform where honest debate takes place .
      How can it be established ?
      Presently the book of scientific truth is slowly burning – other viewpoints being —
      lets use a word that is hot at the moment– cancelled .
      “They are not being scientific” – too true , i would say dangerous.

  23. Martin W D T Ward
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    It was interesting that in the globalist left propaganda speech, that masquerades as a lecture, Carney paid great homage to, and quoted verbatim, the words of a mentally ill Swedish teenager without even a mention of the informed balance provided by, for example, Bjorn Lomborg.

  24. Dee
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    The simple fact is, for all the action the Government has told us we have to undertake, it has made no difference. Each day they come up with one lame excuse or other to try and justify their totally authoritarian diktat. Follow the science they say but they refuse to follow any science if it doesn’t come from SAGE no matter how worthy the scientist is. It was Ferguson (back again) who talked Boris into killing Christmas, surely Boris knows how incompetent that man is by his past record? Hancock’s is the ‘fall’ guy who will take all the flack when the idiocracy of this flu finally comes out into the light. But in the meantime he will carry on like a little Hitler because he has never had so much power and he loves it. Whitty & Vallance the famous Vaudeville duo who come out with all their totally unprovable facts & figures garnished from Wikipedia should be castigated for their falsehoods, but as long as Boris listens to them he thinks he is ‘following the science’.
    Roll on 2024.

  25. M Brandreth- Jones
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I personally double mask

    • Zorro
      Posted December 24, 2020 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      😂

      zorro

  26. mancunius
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Mark Carney was the poorest possible pick for the times. To judge how poor, we need look only at the Chancellor who picked him – himself the worst possible pick for his own job (or rather for one of the many, many jobs he feels compelled to take on simultaneously to embellish his sense of self-worth).
    Anyway, now they are both gone from government, we can slowly rebuild the economy they had such a good go at ruining. Fortunately, as Adam Smith pointed out, ‘There is a great deal of ruin in a nation’, which is proved by the fact that even with their combined efforts joined to that of the previous PM, they did not quite manage to finish us off.
    Now let the government do as Reagan recommended, and get out of the way so we can flourish as a nation.

  27. hefner
    Posted December 24, 2020 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    How true your penultimate paragraph. I will be waiting from such an honest analysis of what you got right and what went wrong, to keep up your claim you have better insight and wisdom than the rest of us. Maybe once you are out of the House of Commons? One can dream of such a testament for future generations. Or maybe you have always been right, in which case I deeply apologise for my abruptness.

  28. rose
    Posted December 25, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    It was obvious in March that the Chinese had bought up all the PPE, including all the masks, and therefore we were to be discouraged from trying to get them. But I think Professor Whitty was sincere in his advice that the public might not wear them and use them correctly, and therefore might do more harm than good. Contamination was what he was worried about, being who he is.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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