Masking the truth


Many of our favourite heroes have a trusty sidekick.

  • Robin was always there to support Batman.
  • Han Solo had Chewbacca at his side as he went into battle.
  • How would Captain Kirk have boldly gone so far without Mr. Spock’s logic?
  • And how could The Lone Ranger ever have helped so many without his faithful companion Tonto at his side?

I think it’s fairly well known that, in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, “tonto” translates as “a dumb person”, “moron”, or “fool”.

Who was that masked man?

According to Wikipedia, this wasn’t the original intention of the writer of the TV series, who used a word from the Potawatomi tribe's language which has the meaning “wild one”. [source]

One of the oft-used catchphrases from The Lone Ranger was the question, posed in admiration after great deeds had been done, “Who was that masked man?”

Vanessa and I had a similar comment directed at us last week, but the phraseology was a little bit different: “Oh, for fuck’s sake!”

I don’t think any admiration was implied either.

We’d gone to our local supermarket, and had worn protective face masks.

Our thinking was that by doing so we are being responsible citizens, protecting not just ourselves, but also protecting others, if somehow we had already been infected with the coronavirus, but weren’t yet displaying symptoms.

We were the only people in the store who were wearing masks.

Masks have become a bit of a hot topic recently, both here in the UK, and in other countries. There seems to be a lot of conflicting advice on whether members of the public should use masks.

Should you wear a mask?

In China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea just about everybody wears a mask. Any newsreel footage or image from a news article shows this to be the case.

For example, here's the header image from a recent article on the website (link below):

In fact, in some countries you can be fined if you go outside without wearing a mask. 

In Wuhan, where the virus outbreak began, it is mandatory to wear a mask at all times when outside. Everybody has one. There are penalties for anyone breaking this law. [source]

I think that tells us something important, as China is now reporting some of the lowest numbers worldwide for new cases of coronavirus.

The use of masks, along with strict lockdown protocols and extensive testing seem to be helping all the Asian countries listed above to keep the spread of the disease under some sort of control.

However, in other countries there have been advisories suggesting that members of the public don’t need to wear masks, and indeed shouldn’t do so.

From the same article on The Telegraph website, which informs us that mask-wearing is compulsory in Wuhan, we discover that the following bodies in the West suggest members of the public shouldn’t be wearing face masks.

  • PHE (Public Health England)
  • NHS (National Health Service (UK))
  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA))
  • WHO (World Health Organization)


"No solid evidence"

The article states these bodies say there “is no solid evidence that they work”.

Maybe there is "no solid evidence", but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that would strongly suggest masks worn in public can help to a significant degree.

See current figures from all the Asian countries listed above, where mask-wearing is almost ubiquitous, compared with figures from Europe and the USA, where few people, if any, have been wearing masks over the past couple of weeks.

More troubling though, is a secondary argument that goes as follows:

Masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by frontline healthcare workers are in terribly short supply. All masks and other PPE currently available should go directly to where they are required. 

I can’t argue with this point. Of course our frontline workers in this battle need all the protection they can get. And they rely on our government to provide that protection and support.

However, there is a bigger picture to be seen here, and a story that isn't being told.

Vanessa and I first heard about the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in late January, alerted by an email newsletter I receive. The newsletter pointed to a worrying video posted by Dr Chris Martenson of

We watched developments over the next few days, and could see the potential for this virus to spread beyond China. Time to make some preparations, Dr Chris suggested, and we agreed.

On 28th January I placed an order on for a pack of 10 masks. 

We didn't "panic buy" or "stockpile", but saw the potential need for these at some point in the future, and made a prudent purchase.

These are just basic filter masks, the type used by builders or carpenters to filter out dust when working. They are not N95 masks, the type our health service is so desperately short of at the moment. They are no good for use in medical situations.

But they will stop someone else’s sneeze or cough droplets going straight into your respiratory tract.

And if you sneeze or cough inside the mask yourself, that too would be contained to some degree. Better than nothing, I’m sure you’d agree?

To repeat: I ordered these on 28th January.

Presumably the UK Government, along with other leaders in Europe and across the Atlantic, have access to YouTube? I'm sure governmental advisers could have seen the same videos from Dr. Chris that alarmed Vanessa and myself. 

In fact I'm pretty confident in suggesting that at the end of January they had access to much better data about the outbreak in Wuhan than we did. Here's an article, again from, dated 23rd January, titled, "Virus-hit Chinese city goes into lockdown, with transport links severed and food shortage fears." [source]

Surely that headline set some alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power? Apparently not.

Five days after 23rd January Vanessa had seen enough data presented by Dr Chris to convince us that buying some face masks would be a sensible "just-in-case" precaution.

We were able to order them from a large range of masks on offer, and although they were slightly delayed - I imagine a few other forward thinkers were beginning to see the writing on the wall - they were delivered pretty quickly. 

At that time, our government here in the UK, along with most other governments on either side of the Atlantic, did nothing

Surely late January would have been the time to start ramping up local production of medical face masks, sourcing new suppliers, stockpiling PPE and placing orders for respirators?

Early February might have been the perfect time to start looking for space to convert for extra hospital beds, and beginning preparations for what might be coming.

Just in case.

This would have been prudent use of the time China bought for us with their strict lockdown measures.

But no.

Our governments chose to fritter the time away arguing over Brexit, worrying about the state of the stock market, or indulging in any amount of pointless political back-stabbing and point-scoring.

And here we are now, just two months later, the body count rising, the infection numbers soaring, and our health systems stretched to breaking point. And we’re only just getting started. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Our governments had adequate time to prepare, but ignored the obvious risks. Now it’s a case of too little too late.

Governments seem to be flailing about in panic, hoping that throwing huge sums of money around will somehow magically fix the problem.

This lack of foresight means there is now a terrible shortage of the most basic item of protective equipment when confronting a virus that is transmitted by airborne droplets – masks.

And instead of being honest, and admitting they made a basic error of judgement, our government chose the course they so often do – lying to cover their incompetence.

Government failed to plan? Government officials lying? No surprise there really, is there?

The claim that masks are of no benefit to members of the public is so obviously untrue – I’ll hand over to Dr. Chris for a simple and clear explanation in his video below.

However, this is the message we are currently being given by national and international sources we should be able to trust: "Wearing masks is pointless."

We're being told this simply because there aren't enough masks to go around in order to require everybody wear one when outside.

A prediction

I’ll go out on a limb and make a prediction:

In a few weeks, when there are finally enough masks to go around (assuming that at this point we are able to catch up with medical demand for them), the advisories from our “leaders” will change, and “new studies” will show mask-wearing to be effective. 

I’ll go even further, and predict some Western countries will even make it mandatory to wear a mask outside your home.

It is known how this virus spreads, via airborne droplets from people who cough. It is also spread by touch, on common surfaces, and it is widely accepted that people who are infected, but not yet symptomatic, can infect others.

Masks for EVERYONE would seem to be a very simple, very cheap first line of defense in stopping the spread of this disease. Coupled with social distancing and aggressive testing, Asian countries are showing much greater levels of success at keeping numbers down.

But our governments failed to see the need to take appropriate action early enough, and now think that trying to cover up for their inadequacies is the best plan.

The lies they are spreading are proving to be as viral as the infection we are fighting. We have been told for quite a while that “the science” tells our government that masks don’t do anything to protect individuals in the community.

Therefore anybody who had the foresight to buy a few masks months ago, in order to potentially protect themselves, their loved ones, and everybody else, needs to “stop hoarding” them, and hand them over to the medical services, who are now struggling with a huge lack of medical PPE.

Here in the UK, a couple of short weeks ago, while numbers were still low, many people hadn’t yet adjusted to our new reality, and wearing a mask to go shopping may have seemed like an extreme over-reaction.

I can almost guarantee that in the coming weeks, we’ll all be wearing masks, and not wearing one will seem extremely foolish.

So if someone were to express their surprise when they see you wearing a mask, or even suggests you shouldn't be wearing one, I would argue there is no shame for the mask-wearer.

My response would be that shame is being directed at the wrong target.

Shame on our government for not having the foresight to see this disaster hurtling our way.

Shame on our government for not making adequate provisions to protect their  health care workers and their citizens. That is, after all, their basic core function.

Shame on our government for not acting, when China battled under lockdown, giving the rest of the world time to prepare. Our government simply squandered this valuable time, which would have allowed them to plan and prepare, by doing practically nothing.

Only now, as the horrific consequences of that failure to plan are blindingly obvious, are our "leaders" getting around to playing catch-up. 

Finally, shame on our government for failing to admit to their shortcomings, and then lying about the effectiveness of masks to cover up their failure to plan.

The true “tontos” in this story are those who were voted in to protect and care for us.

So, who was that masked man in the supermarket?

It was me, and as soon as possible, it should be you too.

You won’t be a “tonto” when you do.

Hi-ho Silver, away!

BREAKING NEWS: 30th March 2020

Literally as I was about to click the "Publish" button on this post, Vanessa sent me a link to this article:

Austria to make basic face masks compulsory in supermarkets

From the article: "Austria will require shoppers to wear basic face masks in supermarkets in a bid to slow the still too-rapid spread of the coronavirus, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday."

I guess the Austrian government is finally getting hold of enough supplies... I hope the UK catches up soon, then we won't feel like such pariahs next time we go to the supermarket!

Leave a Reply 4 comments

Tim - March 30, 2020 Reply

Hi Ian. Long time no see! What would you say to the World Governments? The same? Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, USA all of Eastern Europe, Korea…..I could go on forever and ever. Are they just as culpable? My nursing friends around the world ( I work in Intensive Care) tell me that these Countries have the same problems. So is it a case of slagging off all the World’s Governments? If not, why just the UK?

    Ian Usher - March 31, 2020 Reply

    Hi Tim. Yes, I think any government anywhere, that has failed in its duty of care towards its health workers and citizens by failing to begin to make preparations for this in a timely fashion, is worthy of a similar degree of criticism.
    I only comment particularly on the UK government, as I’m currently stuck here in England, and therefore see more news about incompetent leadership here than in other countries.
    Don’t forget, it was less than a month ago that our Prime Minister was talking about letting the virus “burn through”, going for “herd immunity” and “taking it on the chin”! Thank goodness the world scientific community put them straight on that idea!
    It does appear to me that some governments seem to be doing better than others, and making better, more timely decisions.

Bob - April 1, 2020 Reply

I think they knew…


It’s hard to co-ordinate a pandemic on such a large scale without inconsistencies like..erm Japan and 9 cases in UK in early Feb then nothing for 2 weeks. The media are on board with the gradual reveal. Act 2 will be the second wave and this is where the real carnage could unfold….all those previously infected with a mild case once reinfected with a different strain may suffer an autoimmune reaction similar to a second infection from dengue fever…. you really don’t want to catch this, even once.

They are not incompetent the are complicit.

    Ian Usher - April 1, 2020 Reply

    I reckon we’re getting the best of both worlds Bob… complicit AND incompetent.

Leave a Reply: