Dr Peter Moore former Torbay GP
I cannot understand why anyone who is fit and well should object to wearing a mask during a pandemic.
There’s nothing in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights suggesting that spreading a deadly virus is a fundamental human right.
The evidence has been building that face coverings reduce the spread of coronavirus and give some protection to the person wearing the mask.
They can even be used to make a point although I haven’t yet bought a Torquay United mask.
But I am also getting a feeling of déjà vu.
In 1983, a law came in requiring all drivers to wear a seat belt. At the time some people objected.
“If I want to risk death by being thrown through the windscreen of my car that’s my right.”
Having worked in an accident and emergency department, I could never understand the logic of anyone who did not want to wear a seat belt. The evidence was overwhelming.
One of the tricks people used to get out of wearing a seat belt was to claim a spurious medical reason.
In fact, there were very few medical conditions for not wearing a seat belt. Whatever the disability, any risk in wearing a seat belt was nearly always outweighed by the risk of not wearing one.
However, no Government wants to be seen challenging the disabled lobby, even though some of the lobbyists were not really disabled.
And so the Government came up with an idea which would have made Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister proud.
They announced that anyone with a medical condition which meant that they could not wear a seat belt could get a form from the GP.
If stopped by the police, all they would have to do would be to show the form to prove that they were exempt.
They then sent all of us GPs booklets of forms but they were accompanied by a letter.
First of all, we had to charge £17 for each form, £60 in today’s money. And then they enclosed a list of criteria before we could give them a form.
When I read the list I realised that anyone who fulfilled the criteria would be unlikely to get out of the house, let alone get into a car. They were incredibly strict.
At the end of the letter it pointed out that they would make random checks on anyone who had been given the form.
If it was ruled that they did not reach the criteria, the GP would be reported to the General Medical Council for misconduct.
Just to rub more salt into our professional wound, they added that there could also be criminal proceedings for fraud.
When patients asked me for a seat belt exemption form, I showed them the list and asked whether they really thought they were that disabled.
Most people agreed they weren’t but occasionally they might ask “Come on doc, surely you can bend the rules a little.”
Yes, I could bend the rules but I would risk getting struck off the medical register and facing a criminal court. And so my book of forms lay in a draw in my desk unopened.
Now wearing a seat belt is routine. The result is that many thousands of lives have been saved and few people today doubt the importance of wearing a seat belt.
Today, if I do not put on my belt my car would soon tell me. Not only does it bleep but the automatic hand break stays on until I have clicked on my belt.
I am not suggesting that we take the same line with anyone who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition but for the rest of us face coverings are important.
But, unlike seat belts, I hope we won’t be pushing for everyone to wear a mask in 40 years’ time.