Councillor accused of spreading 'damaging disinformation' on facemasks
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A leading medical scientist has urged people to ignore the pleas of a councillor who has been questioning the effectiveness of facemasks against the virus.
Thetford Town Councillor, Mark Taylor, has come under scrutiny after handing out information cards around the town on the use of face coverings.
Mr Taylor has claimed that many who are exempt feel too scared to go out, as “overbearing” signage in shop windows states that you “must” wear a mask to enter.
So, in a bid to increase shopper confidence, Mr Taylor said he has been distributing the cards to remind the community of the government guidance – specifically aimed at those who are exempt.
On the card, Mr Taylor, writes that those who feel anxious or who are walking outside in fresh air do not need to wear face masks.
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On the back he goes on to claims about bacteria building up on the inside of face coverings and lowering your immune system - the latter part of which has been refuted.
He even went as far as claiming that face covering are not fit for purpose "if you can smell a fart".
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But Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the card is “full of nonsense” and should be ignored by the public.
And although there are “elements of truth”, he said it is mixed with inaccurate information which could be damaging.
Prof Hunter said: “In a limited number of situations where people have a real reason for not wearing facemasks, such as people with chronic lung disease, yes, they are exempt.
“It is also fair to say there are no rules in this country that you have to wear face masks outdoors.
“But everything else he says on there is absolute nonsense.
He continued: “Yes, if you wear a facemask for a long period of time there will be bacteria but it won't generally do you any harm and it won’t lower your immune system.
“This is Internet disinformation that has been circling for a while but it is totally untrue. There is no evidence that it will.
“Volatile compounds in farts are too small to be controlled by facemasks, but viral particles will be controlled.
“It is not an absolute guarantee, but there is no doubt that face coverings have value in reducing the risks - both for people who are infected and if you’re not infected, stopping other people infecting you.
“If he is encouraging people to not wear face coverings when they actually should be wearing them according to law, then he is potentially damaging people's health.
“This is very damaging, inappropriate and harmful.”
But Mr Taylor says the information he has provided is available on the government website and that he stands by what he has said.
“I used to be a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare instructor,” he said.
“I have got a qualification to do with contamination. I can’t see how anything I have put on this card is wrong.
“The government paperwork says you don’t have to wear a face covering if it makes you feel anxious.
"Since I have produced the cards, they have changed the wording from anxious to distressed.
“If you are walking outside in the fresh air to build your immune system you shouldn’t be wearing a face mask.
“People are not being told about their rights. Let's get the exempt people out shopping, for the good of Thetford.”