The latest example of why people shouldn't blindly follow 'the science...as decreed by bureaucrats', arrived Friday, when Bloomberg reported that a study undertaken by the British government to justify forcing children to wear masks in schools has forced them to admit that the evidence for the efficacy of face masks stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools is "not conclusive."
Data from the Department of Education stated that whilst not conclusive, there are now a number of scientific studies which consider the association between COVID-19 and the use of face coverings specifically in education.
The study cited by the department didn’t provide proof of a statistically significant decline in absences.
The research compared 123 U.K. schools that used masks with about 1,200 others that didn’t during the Covid wave fueled by the delta variant.
Schools with face-covering rules in October 2021 saw their absence rate drop by 2.3 percentage points, to 3%, two to three weeks later.
In schools that didn’t use masks, absences fell by 1.7 percentage points, to 3.6%.
As BBC reports, the study concluded that this difference was not statistically significant and the greater reduction in schools where masks were worn could be down to chance.
One epidemiologist quoted by Bloomberg said the government's data didn't provide strong enough evidence to justify requiring face coverings in schools.
"The study and research outlined in this report does not provide strong justification for introducing this policy in schools," said Sarah Lewis, professor of molecular epidemiology at the University of Bristol.
And they should, because forcing children to wear masks all day inhibits their ability to learn, particularly if they struggle with hearing difficulties.
Mask mandates can detract from the quality of education and exclude pupils with hearing difficulties from discussions, Lewis said.
"Where there is insufficient evidence of a benefit of a policy and evidence of harms the default should be not to intervene," she said.
The decision to impose the mask rules was a “really tough choice,” but one that was necessary for a few weeks, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said in a Times Radio interview. But not everybody feels the same way.
The backlash to the mask mandate has intensified, even making its way to the House of Commons, where one critic pointed out that teachers aren't required to wear masks.
My Question to @nadhimzahawi yesterday on masks in schools. They aren't harm free and cause great harm to some. Important the guidance for children to wear them in class is dropped as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/eIaPfN8rJm— Greg Smith MP (@gregsmith_uk) January 6, 2022
The situation in Britain's schools has only worsened. More than one-third of schools have at least 10% of teachers absent due to COVID reasons. And some students rebelled against the mask mandate by refusing to wear their masks.
“Sadly, we have had reports in the last 24 hours of at least six secondary schools in the north-west of England where children, in huge numbers, are refusing to take lateral flow tests or to wear masks,” said Damien McNulty, a national executive member of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.
“We’ve got one school in Lancashire where only 67 children out of 1,300 are prepared to have a lateral flow test and wear masks. This is a public health emergency,” he added.
Additionally, according to University of Oxford Professor Jim Naismith, when England dropped face mask mandates back in July and Scotland maintained them, it made “no meaningful difference” to infection rates.