PM defied SAGE to axe face masks after 'learning they'd cost economy £4bn'

Boris Johnson “followed the economy” as he tore up rules on face masks after learning the coverings could cost the economy £4billion, it’s emerged.

Scientific analysis from reviews of social distancing and mass gatherings, leaked to i News, revealed public dislike for wearing face coverings at sporting, music and arts events.

It suggested keeping masks could cost the hospitality and events industries more than £4billion in lost profits.

A Whitehall source told i the research was compelling and the driving force behind the decision to scrap mandatory face masks when all restrictions are lifted in England.

Yet figures revealed earlier this year showed Covid-19 lockdowns cost the economy hundreds of billions – the highest figure since records began.

Professor Stephen Reicher told The Mirror “we are in deep deep trouble”
Professor Stephen Reicher told The Mirror “we are in deep deep trouble”

Professor Stephen Reicher, member of SPI-B, a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told The Mirror “we are in deep deep trouble”.

Professor Reicher added: “There was an analysis of OECD countries which showed the countries which get on top of the pandemic do best in terms of public health, do best in terms of economy and do best in terms of liberties, because they’ve got to have restrictions for a shorter time.

“So, the notion that public health is at odds with the economy, I think is wrong.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

“One thing that comes over very clearly, very clearly from all the research is that people will put up with measures if they see the point of them. And if they see that they’re keeping them safe.

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“However, if people think there isn’t a risk, then they’ll put up with measures because they become pointless. So if you give people an indication of a risk has gone away, then then compliance is going to fall. It’s happened in other pandemics.

“You see it in this pandemic. And my real fear is all the messaging that’s going on the moment is effectively saying to people, well don’t bother anymore and people don’t bother anymore.”

Back in April, scientists from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned “baseline measures” were “likely to be needed” after step four of England’s lockdown roadmap.

Explaining why face masks are effective in decreasing the risk of transmission, scientists said there is a “potential for high effectiveness as a source control and reasonable effectiveness as protection to the wearer”.

They went on to add the coverings “mitigate all transmission routes”.


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