Expert: Compulsory Face Masks In Public Is ‘Very Dangerous’

Sweden‘s top coronavirus expert is refusing to force people to wear face masks in public, arguing that donning them is ‘very dangerous’ because it gives the impression it is safe to be in crowded rooms or on public transport.

Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, has expressed scepticism that face masks will control Covid-19 outbreaks.

The infectious diseases expert, who refused to follow European governments in locking down in March, also noted that countries with widespread mask compliance, such as Belgium and Spain, were still experiencing rising cases of Covid.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Tegnell said: ‘It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to Covid-19.

‘Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place. But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls – that’s definitely a mistake.’

Dr Tegnell previously brushed off the prospect of compelling Swedes to wear face masks, and called evidence of their effectiveness ‘astonishingly weak’.

Sweden, which has stood out among European countries for its low-key approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

Covid-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June – a number which has now risen to 5,800 – a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than in some others including Britain and Spain.

In total, 51,405 Swedes died in the January to June period, a higher number than any year since 1869 when 55,431 died, partly as a result of a famine. The population of Sweden was around 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now.

Covid-19 meant that deaths were 10 percent higher than the average for the period over the last five years, the Statistics Office said. In April the number of deaths was almost 40% higher than average due to a surge in Covid-related fatalities.

Sweden has taken a different approach to most European countries in dealing with the pandemic, relying to a greater extent on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and opting against a strict lockdown.

Most schools have remained open and many businesses have been continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared better than many others.

However, the death toll has been higher than in its Nordic neighbours, which opted for tougher lockdown measures. Norway, with around half the population, has had only around 260 Covid deaths in total.

Finland’s economy outperformed its larger neighbour in the second quarter, despite a tougher lockdown. Finland’s gross domestic product shrank around 5 per cent against an 8.6 per cent contraction in Sweden from the last three-month period.

Last month Dr Tegnell’s public health agency shrugged off claims that people should wear face masks in crowded public spaces during the pandemic.

Speaking to German newspaper Bild, the coronavirus expert described ‘the belief that masks can solve our problem’ as ‘very dangerous’.

‘The findings that have been produced through face masks are astonishingly weak, even though so many people around the world wear them,’ he said.

‘I’m surprised that we don’t have more or better studies showing what effect masks actually have. Countries such as Spain and Belgium have made their populations wear masks but their infection numbers have still risen.

Read more at www.dailymail.co.uk

Published on August 22, 2020

Written by Jack Wright

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