When will we be told the truth about the effectiveness of face masks?

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Saturday 16 May 2020 17:57 BST
Boris Johnson says face masks will be 'useful' for coming out of lockdown

Have face masks become a fetish with magic properties? All in one day I read that they filter the air coming through to you but not what you exhale. Then the opposite. Then I hear they have little proven value. Each of these opinions has been around for weeks. Where may we have proper information as to face mask efficacy? Are they a practical or a psychological measure? Does anyone know what is meant by the words “face mask”?

We are living in Alice’s Wonderland where words mean what you want them to mean. What really is the point except to let the government pretend it’s doing something useful?

Jane Valentine
Colchester, Essex

Risk of virus hasn’t changed

Since the relaxation of the lockdown, there appears to be an exponential increase in pedestrian and vehicular traffic. What has changed? We do not have a vaccine and the R number could now be as high as the dangerous level of 1. This is clearly a battle between the economy and the safety of the population. The lockdown is financially haemorrhaging and can only be transitory, while the economy seems to be winning the battle – but will it be a pyrrhic victory?

Christopher Learmont-Hughes
Caldy, Wirral

State vs public school closures

One of the biggest attractions of sending one’s children to be educated in the fee-paying sector (previously called, confusingly, public schools) is that the classroom numbers are significantly lower.

Therefore, could someone explain the science behind sending ordinary children back to state schools in June, with class sizes of possibly 30, when the aforementioned schools, with spacious environments, are to remain closed – with some exceptions – until September?

Could it be that we do not want a shortage of future prime ministers?

Robert Boston
Kingshill, Kent

A dangerous message to spread

A headline that says the virus could be wiped out in London within weeks sounds like a dangerous message to spread. It might be true if a large percentage of the London population has actually been infected and acquired immunity.

If not, it will only take a few infected people spreading the infection on the London Underground to start off a new exponential rise. In the absence of widespread population testing, it seems far too soon to talk about having “wiped out the virus”.

Patrick Walker

Substance not slogans

Is there any chance the various leaders of the opposition both here and in the US can study Patrick Cockburn’s column in today’s issue? To understand how two preening popinjays got to power – when there was little or no substance to their statements – is a fundamental need. To defeat those demagogues who offer the delights of sunny uplands without any apparent effort or sacrifice will require both skill with traditional and modern media as well as grown-up policies.

Substance not slogans. Thank you, Patrick, for such an interesting and considered column.

Kerry Larbalestier

We need more interviewers like Piers Morgan

Amy Nickell complains that Piers Morgan’s interview technique seems to revolve around belittling the interviewee and not letting them speak. Now, I must confess I haven’t actually seen Piers in action on TV, and I would very much reject any suggestion that I’m a fanboy based on newspaper articles of his that I’ve read, but I can’t help feeling Amy’s trying to have her cake and eat it.

I am utterly bewildered at how politicians and government officials can so blatantly respond to almost any question with a total non-answer and then, without a hint of shame, insist that they are absolutely answering it. The only conclusion any rational observer can draw is that the true answer is so bad that even presenting as a complete liar is better by comparison.

If you want a good example of how to respond to difficult questioning about still poorly known matters, try checking out [Oxford professor of medicine] John Bell’s interviews on Channel 4 News. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t pretend to know the answers; doesn’t try to waffle his way out of admitting it; and makes it clear that he’s optimistic for the best case scenario but his feelings won’t change any facts.

The day a politician is even a tiny fraction as honest on television is the day I hand in my cynic’s badge.

Steve Rencontre
Address supplied

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