Hundreds of activists have descended on Hyde Park in central London to protest the wearing of face coverings.
Demonstrators raised signs reading ‘I will be not be masked, tested, tracked’ and ‘no mask’ as they gathered for the Keep Britain Free march from 1pm.
One man wore a plague doctor costume, another had a mask with the front ripped out and one donned a vest saying: ‘Save human rights. No to 5G. No to vaccinations.’
The protest was to counter the government announcement that masks must be worn in shops from July 24, which organisers branded a ‘liberty-sapping regulation’.
The march, which started in Speaker’s Corner and moved to Marble Arch, also looked to repel ‘the erosion of freedoms in the UK’ brought in during lockdown.
It comes as the UK government toughened its stance on the wearing of face coverings in public places.
Passengers have to use them on public transport and they will be made compulsory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24.
Rule breakers will be hit with a £100 which can be reduced to £50 if paid within a fortnight.
A police officer speaks to a crowd of anti-mask protesters as the anti-mask demonstration in Hyde Park, central London
Hundreds appear not to abide by social distancing rules as they packed into a road in Hyde Park during Sunday’s protest
One man wore a plague doctor-style costume while another wore a vest which said: ‘Save human rights. No to 5G. No to vaccinations’
A woman holds a sign and wears a mask as she protests in Hyde Park in central London today. She was one of hundreds of demonstrators to take part in the event
People gather to listen to speakers at a protest organised by ‘Keep Britain Free’ in London today
Demonstrators raised signs reading ‘I will be not be masked, tested, tracked’ and ‘no mask’ as they gathered from 1pm
One protester chose to wear a face covering which had the front cut out of it as he attended the rally in Hyde Park, London
The protestor wearing a plague doctor-style masks is seen through the crowd as he listens to speakers during the rally
Do face coverings help reduce coronavirus transmission?
So, has the science evolved on face coverings?
A report by the Royal Society suggests basic homemade face coverings can reduce transmission if enough people wear them.
Dr Julian Tang, who is an associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, said wearing face coverings in public places could keep the R value below 1 by creating an ‘artificial herd immunity’.
But Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said that while face coverings may reduce the spread of cough droplets, robust epidemiological evidence on their benefits is still lacking.
Are there any benefits to wearing them?
Experts say the risk of coronavirus transmission appears to be higher in poorly ventilated indoor spaces and wearing face coverings in small shops or enclosed shopping centres could help reduce the spread.
In addition, there is also increased evidence which suggests that many people with the virus who do not have symptoms can still be contagious.
What does this mean for those looking to go back to the office?
Experts say wearing face coverings could provide an added line of defence amid growing evidence of airborne transmission of coronavirus.
Dr Tang said: ‘If half the people in the office wear a mask, it would increase artificial herd immunity to around 25 per cent, which can reduce transmission overall within the office, just by reducing the number of people who are susceptible.’
Are there downsides to face coverings?
There are many indoor spaces, such as pubs and restaurants, where the use of face coverings may not be possible.
Some experts have also shared concerns that wearing face coverings may give the wearer a false sense of security, although Prof Neal said there is ‘no evidence to suggest that is the case’.
Are some face coverings better than others?
The WHO advises a three-layer face covering in the community – the outer layer should be water resistant, the inner should be water absorbent and the mid-layer acts as a filter.
The Government said coverings can be made from scarves, bandanas or other fabric items, as long as they cover the mouth and nose.
But scientists at the Leverhulme Centre say some coverings are not as effective as others, with woven fabrics, such as scarves, shown to be least effective.
Keep Britain Free’s website said the new rules for shops ‘was the last straw, following 16 weeks of liberty-sapping regulations and laws imposed during lockdown’.
Today’s gathering, which appeared not to observe social distancing and was identified by its red balloons, heard from a number of speakers including journalist James Delingpole, psychotherapist and organiser Leah Butler-Smith, and lawyer Clare Will Harrison.
They were told how any rule to impose mandatory mask wearing in offices and other workplaces was ‘illogical and irrational given where we now are. Masks will not help’.
Ms Butler-Smith told Sky News: ‘It is just the fact that people are being told they have no choice about wearing a mask.
‘Because the Government started out saying ”there is absolutely no need for a mask”, and many other important scientists have reportedly said the same, it did not make any sense why they suddenly said it was going to be mandated.
‘If the Government really wants to protect the public and give them more confidence then they should stop trying to use the coercion strategy or to make people scared.’
The group’s website adds: ‘They will starve the battered retail sector of the oxygen that is needed to claw its way back to something like a healthy position.
‘Moreover, it is a further barrier to people getting back to a normal life.
‘It is not just about masks. It is about your rights, your freedoms and your way of life, all of which has been changed to your detriment by this Government.
‘So we urge you to join Keep Britain Free on for the peaceful demonstration to demand restoration of freedom and liberties.’
Last week PM Boris Johnson was accused of sending mixed messages after saying face coverings were not necessary in takeaways, hours after Matt Hancock suggested the opposite.
And Michael Gove, who dismissed the idea of making face coverings compulsory in shops last weekend, said it was best to ‘trust’ the public to make a personal decision.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster faced further criticism for emerging without one from a Pret in London on Tuesday.
In contrast Cabinet colleagues Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were pictured protecting themselves at the same store.
Mr Johnson was also seen wearing one earlier in the week, hinting at a clear blanket rule for all on the high street.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock, who insisted coverings will be required in venues like Pret when people buy things to go.
He suggested the crucial point was people needed to wear masks if they were not receiving table service and claimed ordering at the bar is not permitted at pubs – despite official guidance saying it is.
But within hours Downing Street added to the bafflement by indicating cafes and eateries will not be included in the law, as the system will only apply in ‘shops and supermarkets’ in England.
The response sparked anger from Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who tweeted: ‘This is frankly ridiculous. The virus doesn’t know if you’re in a take-away or a supermarket.
The crowd at the Keep Britain Free march watch on as speakers address them in Hyde Park today
A woman going by the name Cassie Sunshine speaks during the Keep Britain Free movement anti-mask protest today
A man details the flat earth theory to a fellow demonstrator at the Keep Britain Free movement
People attend the protest in central London against the wearing of masks amid the coronavirus outbreak
The crowd listens as one activist gives a talk at the demonstration in central London on Sunday
Signs are held aloft as hundreds of protesters met in Hyde Park from 1pm for the large rally today
‘The Government is risking the health of the public to cover the back of a Cabinet Minister. Please wear a face covering in all shops and takeaways.’
Mr Gove finally fell into line by wearing an NHS-branded face covering in Whitehall – having sparked a furore at the weekend by publicly making clear he did not think they should be required by law.
Amid the confusion, Mr Hancock gave a stark message that the edict on face coverings was not going to be lifted any time soon.
He said: ‘People will have to wear masks in shops and on public transport and in the NHS for the foreseeable future.’
Meanwhile official guidance published by the government raised fresh doubts about how it can be policed.
Despite the threat of £100 fines, the document says people can have a ‘legitimate’ excuse for not wearing a face covering if it causes them ‘distress’.
A woman going by the name Cassie Sunshine wears a g-string on her face as she speaks during the rally
A demonstrator holds up a sign as he attends the Keep Britain Free movement protest today
A demonstrator wears a Make America Great Again cap at the central London demonstration
PETER HITCHENS: Face masks turn us into voiceless submissives – and it’s not science forcing us to wear them, it’s politics
In the name of Covid, the State has already thrust itself into every corner of our existence.
It has come between husbands and wives at the ends of their lives. It has forbidden the old to embrace their grandchildren.
It has denied us funerals and weddings, locked the churches, silenced the ancient monastic music of cathedral choirs and prevented the free worship of God for the first time in 800 years, and banned us (unless we are Left-wing) from holding or attending public meetings.
It has ordered us to stay at home, scolded or fined us for sunbathing, going on country rambles or even entering our front gardens.
The Government began its wild, disproportionate shutdown of the country by spreading fear of a devastating plague that would destroy the NHS and kill untold thousands. Now, as many people find that Covid-19 is, in fact, nothing of the kind, new ways have to be found to keep up the alarm levels. Commuters are pictured above on the London Underground
It has forced millions of us to stop working, sabotaged the educations – at school and university – of untold numbers of young people and has become our boss and paymaster in the biggest state takeover of life and work ever attempted by non-Communists.
Soon we will discover that it has also wrecked an already wobbly economy and separated untold numbers of us from jobs and businesses we thought were safe. Soon, too, it will also separate us from our savings, through punishing tax and savage inflation, to pay for the disaster it has caused.
Now it presumes to tell us what to wear. And what it wants us to wear is a soggy cloth muzzle, a face-nappy that turns its wearer from a normal human into a mumbling, mouthless submissive.
And this, it seems, is popular. Is there nothing the modern British people will not put up with? Britain’s muzzle consumption is now so high that six months from now there will be reports of dolphins and whales floundering about in an ocean made sticky by millions of gallons of hand-sanitiser, as they choke on congealed clumps of used muzzles. These items are set to become the new plastic bags.
Why is this frenzy taking place?
Here is a clue. On July 12, Deborah Cohen, the medical correspondent of BBC2’s Newsnight, revealed an astonishing thing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) had reversed its advice on face masks, from ‘don’t wear them’ to ‘do wear them’.
But the key fact was that it had not done so because of scientific information – the evidence had not backed the wearing of face coverings – but because of political lobbying.
She revealed on Twitter that: ‘We had been told by various sources [that the] WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying.’ She said the BBC had then put this to the WHO, which did not deny it.
In March, the WHO had said: ‘There is currently no evidence that wearing a mask (whether medical or other types) by healthy persons in the wider community setting, including universal community masking, can protect them from infection with respiratory viruses, including Covid-19.’
The American TV news channel CNN reported on March 31 that Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, had said at a briefing in Geneva: ‘There is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit.
‘In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.’
A few weeks ago, the WHO changed its advice to say it ‘advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.’
Earlier that same month, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, had said that wearing face masks would do little to combat the outbreak.
While noting that if someone was infected, they might reduce the danger of spreading the disease by covering their faces, Prof Whitty said wearing a face mask had almost no effect on reducing the risk of contracting the illness.
He stated: ‘In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that.’
People are seen walking down London’s Oxford Street. There is plenty of research showing that the case for muzzles is poor, especially a survey done for the dental profession four years ago, which quietly vanished from the internet after mask opponents began to cite it
Also in March, the Advertising Standards Authority banned two firms’ advertisements for masks, saying that the adverts were ‘misleading, irresponsible and likely to cause fear without justifiable reason’.
At about the same time, Dr Jenny Harries, a Deputy Chief Medical Officer, warned that people could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting Covid by wearing muzzles. She said masks could ‘actually trap the virus’, and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in. She explained: ‘For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea.’
On April 3, the other Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said he did not believe healthy people wearing them would reduce the spread of the disease in the UK.
The British Government has also zig-zagged. As recently as June 24, in a series of official pamphlets for reopening shops and services, the Department for Business and Enterprise said repeatedly: ‘The evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small.’
This was true at the time and it is still true. The evidence is indeed weak. There is plenty of research showing that the case for muzzles is poor, especially a survey done for the dental profession four years ago, which quietly vanished from the internet after mask opponents began to cite it.
The scientific papers in favour of muzzling are full of weak, hesitant words such as ‘probably, ‘could’ and ‘may’ – which can equally well be expressed as ‘probably not’, ‘could not’ or ‘may not’.
There has not been any great discovery in the past few days.
Generally, the main way of discovering if something works is the Randomised Control Trial (RCT), in which the proposed treatment or method is tested directly and thoroughly.
This hasn’t been done with muzzles, probably because it would be a bit difficult and possibly because muzzle zealots fear the results would not help their case.
Amazingly, the chief spokesman for science in this country, who should surely support proper rigour, has dismissed such RCTs.
Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, sneered at ‘inappropriate’ RCTs as ‘methodological fetishism’. He did this while advocating more compulsory muzzle-wearing when he appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme on July 7 – as the political lobbying for muzzles intensified. All that has changed is the politics.
Why are they changing?
Interestingly, Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s muzzle edict was the first action by the London Government which actually copied a move made by Nicola Sturgeon’s extremely Left-wing Edinburgh administration.
There are many signs that it has not been thought through, at least by scientists.
Why are we more likely to spread Covid in a shop than we are to do so in a pub or restaurant? The question cannot be answered.
What evidence there is certainly suggests that the risk of transmission is greater if we linger longer, but the Government does not dare close down the catering trade again, because it would be wildly unpopular and because these businesses are on the point of bankruptcy – and such an action would shut them.
The truth is that the muzzle policy is all about power and fear.
The Government began its wild, disproportionate shutdown of the country by spreading fear of a devastating plague that would destroy the NHS and kill untold thousands.
Now, as many people find that Covid-19 is, in fact, nothing of the kind, new ways have to be found to keep up the alarm levels.
One was exposed on Friday by the superb scientists of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. Puzzled by the way that Covid death figures in England continued to pour in, while they had all but ceased in Scotland, they looked at the figures from Public Health England (PHE).
And they found, in their own devastating words ‘It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not.
‘PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community. Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.
‘By this PHE definition, no one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness. A patient who has tested positive, but been successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.’
This problem would be avoided by having a simple cut-off, where those who tested positive more than 28 days ago were no longer counted as Covid deaths. Scotland does this. That is why its figures are lower.
Findings are now also pouring in which suggest that a horribly high number of the excess deaths during the last few months were not caused by Covid, but by people failing to seek treatment for heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
Despite the propagandists of the BBC, which has tried as hard as it can never to mention the legions of dissenting scientists who dispute the Government’s policy, people are beginning to wonder, in increasing numbers, if they might have been taken for a ride.
This Government has no great authority. It is a Cabinet of undistinguished, inexperienced unknowns, headed by an exhausted and empty Prime Minister whose sparkle, such as it was, is fast fading.
In a few weeks’ time, the Government faces the onset of what may be the worst economic crisis since 1929. It needs to keep the fear levels up to maintain its authority.
One way of doing this is the ceaseless promotion of an alleged ‘second wave’ of Covid, for which there is no evidence.
Another is to undertake a ferocious testing policy. This is now happening in Leicester where testers go from door to door to discover people who are ‘infected’ with Covid, even if they have no symptoms (which is usually the case) and are perfectly healthy. Then they can raise the alarm and close down the city.
In a few weeks’ time, the Government faces the onset of what may be the worst economic crisis since 1929. It needs to keep the fear levels up to maintain its authority. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pictured wearing a mask
But muzzling the populace is even better. People such as me, who think Ministers’ response to the virus is wildly out of proportion, have until now been able to live amid the propaganda, trying to stay sane.
But the muzzle is a badge of subservience and submission. Anyone who dons it publicly is agreeing to the Government’s crazy assessment of the level of danger.
Societies in which citizens are discouraged from speaking out against the regime, as this has become, are pretty disgraceful. But countries where the citizens are compelled to endorse the opinion of the state are a serious step further down the path to totalitarianism.
It is even worse than that.
Look at the muzzled multitudes, their wide eyes peering out anxiously from above the hideous gag which obscures half their faces and turns them from normal human beings into mouthless, obedient submissives. The psychological effect of these garments, on those who wear them, is huge.
And it also has another nasty result for society as a whole.
Dissenters, who prefer not to muzzle themselves, are made to stand out from the surrendered majority, who then become quite keen on pressuring the non- conformists to do as they are told, and on informing against them.
I predicted the same outcome during the House Arrest period in April, and was mocked for it, but it came true.
When all this began, I felt fear. But it was not fear of the disease, which was clearly overstated from the start.
It was fear of exactly what is happening to us, the final closing down of centuries of human liberty and the transformation of one of the freest countries on Earth into a regimented, conformist society, under perpetual surveillance, in which a subservient people scurries about beneath the stern gaze of authority.
It is my view that, if you don that muzzle, you are giving your assent to that change.
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