Prof Dame Jenny Harries, the head of the UK Health Security Agency, has cast a shadow of doubt on the effectiveness of face masks in community settings during her testimony to the Covid Inquiry.
The Inquiry, which is rigorously investigating various aspects of the UK government's response to the pandemic, has found its latest point of discussion in Harries' questions about the guidance on face masks.
Questioning the Efficacy of Masks
Harries expressed her concerns about the government's previous advice on the use of homemade face coverings. She questioned the recommendation of wearing face masks without solid evidence of their effectiveness, highlighting the potential for a false sense of security. In her words, there is no concrete proof that masks slowed the spread of Covid, and she feared that the directive to wear masks may have inadvertently lulled the public into a sense of complacency.
Scrutiny over Homemade Face Coverings
In a pointed critique, Harries emphasized the ineffectiveness of using two pieces of cloth to make a mask. She noted that at least three layers were needed for even a marginal impact on transmission. This revelation raises questions about the government's advice on making masks using two pieces of fabric, calling into question the effectiveness of such homemade solutions in controlling the spread of the virus.
Debates on Patient Discharge Amidst Overwhelmed Hospitals
Harries' testimony also touched upon one of the most contentious aspects of the pandemic response: the discussions about discharging Covid-positive patients into care homes due to concerns about the NHS becoming overwhelmed. She painted a grim picture of what would need to happen if hospitals were overflowing, acknowledging the ethical and practical challenges of discharging patients into care settings.
The Covid Inquiry, still ongoing, hopes to shed light on the decisions made during the crisis, and Harries' testimony adds another layer to the scrutiny of the government's actions and policies during the height of the pandemic.