The only masking that’s going on is that of the government’s continued failure to get to grips with the virus
For some people, going to hospital may now be more dangerous than staying at home untreated. Many clinically vulnerable people fear, sometimes with good reason, that a visit to hospital or the doctors’ surgery could be the end of them. Of course, there have always been dangers where sick people gather. But, until now, health services have sought to minimise them. Astonishingly, this is often no longer the case.
Across the UK, over the past two years, the NHS has been standing down even the most basic precautions against Covid-19. For example, staff in many surgeries and hospitals are no longer required to wear face masks in most clinical settings. Reassuring posters have appeared even in cancer wards, where patients might be severely immunocompromised. A notice, photographed and posted on social media last week, tells people that while they are “no longer required to wear a mask in this area”, they should use hand sanitiser “to protect our vulnerable patients, visitors and our staff”. Sanitising is good practice. But Covid-19 is an airborne virus, which spreads further and faster by exhalation than by touch.
George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist
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