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Fact check: Face mask advice is based on current scientific evidence

A social media user has made a lengthy post claiming that masks to protect against the new coronavirus are not based on science, the virus is less deadly than the common cold and that forced vaccinations are planned in the UK. These claims are incorrect.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The post (here), includes opinion and a number of other claims which are beyond the scope of this check. However, it begins with the misleading assertion that rules requiring face coverings are a “non science based mask wearing fiasco”.

A June 2020 study, (here), found that face coverings were effective in reducing the spread of the virus, both for the wearer as well as those around them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, too, recommends masks for their role as barrier to prevent respiratory droplets from entering into air and onto others. (here) and cites these studies (here) in relation to the advice.

The UK government guidance (here) states that the “information is based on current scientific evidence and is subject to change”, in an acknowledgement that further research may enhance understanding of the role of masks in the pandemic.

The social media post goes on to state that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is “a virus that is far less deadly than the common cold”.

Reuters debunked this claim recently (here) . COVID-19 is far more lethal than the common cold, according to experts (here) .

Another claim in the post is that “the main plot is forced vaccinations”. In May, Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock addressed this issue. In a media briefing on May 21, he said (timecode 23:23 here) : “The question of whether it’s mandatory is not one that we have addressed yet. We are still some time off a vaccine being available but I would hope that given the scale of this crisis, and given the overwhelming need for us to get through this and to get the country back on its feet, and a very positive impact a vaccine would have, that everybody would have the vaccine.”

Reuters has previously disproved the claim that the UK government changed the law to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory(here) .

In Sept. 2020, the health minister for Wales, Vaughan Gething, said that making vaccination mandatory was among a range of options that could be considered by the government. "I wouldn't rule out anything at this point. Mandation is the most extreme end and the most unlikely," he said (here) .

The social media post also goes on to allege that vaccine safety has “never ever been proven”. This is misleading. The Vaccine Knowledge Project, managed by researchers at the Oxford Vaccine Group, describe the stages vaccines must pass through before they can be offered ( here) , which includes phase III trials to gather statistically significant data on the vaccine's safety and efficacy.

VERDICT:

False. Guidance over masks to protect against COVID-19 is based on science, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is more deadly than common cold and there is no evidence forced vaccinations are the “main plot” in the UK.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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