As a parent, scientist, and citizen, the past three years have been challenging in many ways, mainly because of the confusing and unreliable data on which public information and political decision-making were based. The societal pressure for anyone raising doubts about the public narrative1 and the perceived fast and loose labeling of dissenting voices as conspiracy theorists with right-wing ties has been taxing and worrisome.
Link to our paper on filtering mechanisms in masks submitted to “Environmental Research” https://zenodo.org/record/8251843
In my opinion, some fundamentals of human life and society have been thrown overboard and replaced with zealous opining by decision-makers and, unfortunately, many professional journalists – citing questionable and often unfounded “scientific evidence,” resulting in fearmongering instead of enlightenment2.
This is even more concerning as most of the general public does not have the ability or education to check the cited data and sources, much less analyze, interpret, and evaluate it. I have been struggling with publicly accessible data, and the analysis raised more questions and did not align very well with the information disseminated at the time. This would have been the task of journalists, along with questioning all the different policies, which at times posed heavy and unbearable restrictions on fundamental rights in the name of safeguarding public health. A cost-benefit analysis is missing until today.
I am not talking about the early days in March and April of 2020 when nobody could predict the extent of an unprecedented situation in a globalized world, and data was naturally scarce. The back and forth concerning the efficacy of mask-wearing during this period has been a first indicator for the thin ice many decisions stood on and should have been resolved with transparent and honest communications about what is known and what is not – an opportunity to build trust early on unfortunately wasted. Instead, mandates were imposed and policies passed to first and foremost ‘keep the economy going’ on the backs of the most vulnerable groups in our population: children and older citizens.
While doctors, nurses, teachers, transportation workers, … struggled to adapt to questionable and doubted measures, numbers were unreflectedly megaphoned by politicians and journalists, stoking fear among the general population3. The repercussions of school closures and lockdowns were immediately felt and the fall-out will impact an entire generation for years and decades to come.
Let me give you one example – the efficacy of FFP2 masks is commonly and frequently communicated to be 94%. The label FFP2 is given to masks tested following standard EN149, which is not easily accessible by anybody and can, at the time of this writing, be acquired for 108EUR. The number 94% does appear in this norm, but not as the efficacy of the entire mask, but only for the filtration material, which is tested separately. For the full mask, the efficacy has to meet 89% in 46 of 50 masks, tested on subjects without facial hair, with even facial features, who are well informed and checked for proper mask application. This efficacy is tested for leakage directed to the inside of the mask; leakage in the other direction is not part of the test.
I am not saying that masks can’t filter exhaled air, but the applicable procedures do not test for this. For a mask to get labeled as FFP2, no 94% efficacy is certified. Instead, the efficacy under ideal conditions for 92% of masks is at least 89%! More information and background in our paper4.
I am not convinced that it is the government’s responsibility to keep us alive and healthy – the current policies concerning, e.g., tobacco and alcohol in many countries seem to concur with this. The government’s task is much more to fund and encourage research to investigate the source and impact of health risks5 and communicate them based on a solid data source6 to give every citizen the best possible basis for making informed decisions. More importantly, the government’s task is to educate – especially children and young adults – and provide social and cultural experiences where parents can’t or fail to do so. Closing schools has to be a measure of last resort!
Dedicated journalists and researchers are currently questioning the narrative of policy-makers, health experts, and operatives of the industrial-pharmaceutical complex from the previous years and unveiling that decisions were made on faulty and insufficient data, which discloses the inability of public institutions to collect and organize essential datasets and sources. These findings cover the actual health risk and mortality, the efficacy and impact of isolation measures, and the insufficient knowledge many decisions were based on.
We have recently surveyed what has been communicated about the efficacy of mask-wearing and what the scientific literature and underlying standards state. Our current paper, submitted to the Journal “Environmental Research” and published as a preprint at https://zenodo.org/record/8251843, shows the substantial misinformation and lack of knowledge concerning the effectiveness of mask-wearing and point out, not as the first to do so, the risks involved, which might not outweigh the benefits. Again, the most vulnerable population, i.e., school students, had the least opportunity to take breaks from mask-wearing.
In contrast to conspiracy theorists, I believe most of what we have experienced is the result of incompetence and greed. Several uncovered scandals can attest to that. This opens the opportunity to do better – to inform instead of scare, to ensure that the public is informed and educated instead of patronized and infantilized. But this requires politicians committed to a democratic and free society, encouraging discussion and carefully weighing the tasks of government. The power-hungry and incompetent have no place in leading us in normal times, much less when things get challenging.
- 1.Rockenfeller R, Günther M, Mörl F. Reports of deaths are an exaggeration: all-cause and NAA-test-conditional mortality in Germany during the SARS-CoV-2 era. R Soc open sci. Published online August 2023. doi:10.1098/rsos.221551
- 2.Kuhbandner C, Reitzner M. Estimation of Excess Mortality in Germany During 2020-2022. Cureus. Published online May 23, 2023. doi:10.7759/cureus.39371
- 3.Günther M, Mörl F, Rockenfeller R. Where Have the Dead Gone? Front Med. Published online March 16, 2022. doi:10.3389/fmed.2022.837287
- 4.Lipfert S, Günther M, Rockenfeller R, Renjewski D. Accumulation of water in face masks during respiration. Published online August 16, 2023. doi:10.5281/ZENODO.8251843
- 5.Fraiman J, Erviti J, Jones M, et al. Serious adverse events of special interest following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination in randomized trials in adults. Vaccine. Published online September 2022:5798-5805. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2022.08.036
- 6.Mörl F, Günther M, Rockenfeller R. Is the Harm-to-Benefit Ratio a Key Criterion in Vaccine Approval? Front Med. Published online July 4, 2022. doi:10.3389/fmed.2022.879120