VISITORS TO One New Change shopping centre near St Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of London were transported back in time yesterday as bright red digital advertising screens sternly declared “FACE COVERINGS MUST BE WORN IN THIS SHOPPING CENTRE” reviving scenes many of us thought we’d left behind.
Presumably someone at Landsec, the owner and operator of the shopping centre, has spent too long in the sun or, more worryingly, bought into growing alarmism about Covid cases once again threatening to overwhelm the NHS and has decided to unilaterally reimpose this ineffectual measure. Much of the “shopping centre” is in fact a partly-covered outdoor thoroughfare in which, even at the height of restrictions in England, many people appeared comfortable bearing their naked faces, making this a particularly unusual location to launch the campaign to turn back the clock to 2020.
Visitors and shop-workers alike wisely appeared to ignore the mandate, which was announced just as temperatures in central London shot up to 39 degrees Celsius. One can only imagine how particularly unpleasant it would have been to wear a face covering in an outdoor area in yesterday’s heat.
Whilst it was heartening to see the signs being universally ignored by members of the public, their appearance is a timely reminder that things are not back to normal and the threat of restrictions returning before the end of the year is very real. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine shoppers reacting far differently to these signs on a cold December’s day later this year, even if they’re content to ignore them now during a heatwave.
In an even clearer sign of things to come, Germany’s justice minister Marco Buschmann announced last week that the government there is already preparing for the reintroduction of mandatory face coverings this Autumn. Ironically, Buschmann suggested face coverings would be limited to indoor areas and therefore might not be enforceable in the largely open air One New Change shopping centre if it were magically transported to the centre of Berlin.
The new pressure for masking comes just as international disease control experts are raising concerns that masks may actually increase transmission of coronaviruses – as the Mail Online reported here.
This will surprise few Recovery supporters. Areas imposing mask mandates have repeatedly seen worse case numbers than similar neighbours which don’t enforce masks (seen earlier this year in the notably higher case numbers in masked Scotland than unmasked England, for example.
Logically, we might expect germs to thrive if people are forced to breath through a re-used strip of fabric or even a once-clean surgical mask pulled from a pocket alongside keys, coins, tissues and detritus. Should we be surprised that this is what in fact happens? The refusal by the authorities and media to consider and debate questions like these properly may actually have put lives at risk, rather than safeguarding them as intended.
It all highlights just how perverse and counterproductive many of the repressive restrictions adopted to control Covid-19 were – and continue to be. Yet instead of learning from these mistakes, counterproductive measures like mask wearing are being normalised in many parts of the world – like One New Change.
Lockdown and restriction advocates are evidently regrouping in advance of the colder months, laying the groundwork to convince a new UK prime minister and cabinet to sweep away our basic freedoms once again. We can see the warning signs in the daily headlines about case numbers and a “dying” NHS, and in the pronouncements of other governments about the months ahead… and for shoppers visiting One New Change this week, the warning signs are literally right there before their eyes like bright red flashing lights.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance and right now, more than ever, there is absolutely no room for complacency.
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Archie Graham is a pseudonym we use for whistleblowers who are not able to use their real names for fear of being dismissed from their employment.