On Wednesday 4th March, Prof. Chris Whitty (CMO) told Sky News: “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.”
A mandatory requirement in many countries, the World Health Organisation's first recommended the use of face masks in public at the beginning of April as the coronavirus spread globally.
The UK advice has been patchy. By 28th April Nichola Sturgeon was recommending their use in particular circumstances, while the UK Government were still considering evidence from SAGE.
By the 11th May, in the documents provided by the UK government to explain the Boris Johnson (chaotic) broadcast of the night before, people in England were told to cover their faces in some public areas.
Meanwhile the Northern Ireland & Wales administrations have their own versions of the advice.
Oh, and if you've worked out you need to wear one, don't use a medical one. We need thos…
The R number is the number of people (on average) each infected person infects. Anything over 1 means the disease soars away again.
As an example Boris Johnson's personal R number is probably more than four. Hancock, Whitty, Cummings, Carrie as a quick list. He's a disaster.
Apparently the R number is below 1. That's good. Some politicians, when pressed, have even tried to be more exact: 0.6-0.9 ? But (of course ?) it's higher in care homes - higher than 1 then?
We currently have a daily count of five or six thousand new cases a day (reported, based on tests) then there's all the other people who've had it, stayed at home, had it, didn't know, etc. not in those figures. So could it be ten thousand new cases a day then ? twenty thousand ?
Who knows ?
So how the hell can anyone tell what the R number is ?
It's widely accepted that the UK came late to lockdown and when it did come, it was looser than many nearby countries, giving many people the excuse to bend the rules with little fear of being found out.
We were told that the idea was to "flatten the curve", reduce the R number below 1 and protect the NHS. Well, to some extent that worked, or at least, is working.
The NHS has coped (and the new hospitals have hardly been used) although for some reason our deaths per million figure (yes, apples with apples !) is higher than Italy !!