UK

Health minister sparks row after claiming face masks only offer ‘marginal’ benefit in Covid fight 

Health minister sparks row after claiming face masks only offer ‘marginal’ benefit in Covid fight

  • Lord Bethell yesterday said face coverings offered only ‘marginal protection’
  • He was being questioned over plans to lift restrictions in England on July 19 
  • The move has faced criticism from more than 120 scientists and doctors 

A health minister sparked a row in the House of Lords yesterday after he questioned the effectiveness of masks at preventing Covid.

Lord Bethell said face coverings offered only ‘marginal protection’ when questioned over Government plans to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19.

The move has faced criticism from more than 120 scientists and doctors who signed a letter in The Lancet accusing the UK Government of conducting a ‘dangerous and unethical experiment’. 

Lord Bethell said face coverings offered only ‘marginal protection’ when questioned over Government plans to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions in England on July 19

Pressed by peers, Lord Bethell said: ‘Masks simply aren’t a panacea.

‘Were the whole country to wear a mask for the rest of their lives we would still have pandemics, because they only offer marginal protection.’

But Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oates said: ‘Is the minister aware the comments he just made are not just nonsense, they are dangerous nonsense and will he withdraw them?’ 

He sparked a row in the House of Lords yesterday after he questioned the effectiveness of masks at preventing Covid (stock image)

He sparked a row in the House of Lords yesterday after he questioned the effectiveness of masks at preventing Covid (stock image)

Lord Bethell responded: ‘I don’t accept that at all. The argument I make is an extremely reasonable one.’ 

He also told peers: ‘This isn’t a question of libertarian ideology. This is a question of assessing the risks faced by the country… I’m afraid to say we cannot have in place laws on the intimate practicalities of people’s lives for the long-term.

‘We don’t have a law on sneezing. I wouldn’t think of sneezing in the presence of peers, but I don’t accept that I should be given a fine for doing so.’ 

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