I NOTE with interest Helen McArdle's Analysis article ("Opposition to face masks is predictable safety backlash", The Herald, July 16), where she says we've seen it all before "with everything from seatbelts to vaccines".

The rationale for this argument is false; there is no comparison in the scenarios. Seatbelts and vaccines are fully tested and usage policies are based on sound scientific evidence. However, the policy for mandatory usage of "cloth face masks/coverings" seems to be based on circumstantial assumptions, papers which have not been peer reviewed, but yet are quoted by the media as being factual and definite.

This issue appears to be a red herring in the Covid-19 fight and as Orwell said about Second World War gas masks, "simply a symbol of national solidarity". Only N95 respiratory masks are of any help in the prevention of respiratory disease, as Professor Jason Leitch correctly advised at the start of this crisis. The only thing that has changed is Prof Leitch's advice based on "some evidence". However, "some evidence" has not been circulated, and there is no consensus across the scientific or global community on this subject, due to the lack of evidence.

It's easier to support something when presented with actual evidence and that is the obvious issue here. To date there appears to be only one validated test, which is referenced in this current WHO guidance to healthcare and community workers of June 5: "In the context of severe medical mask shortage, face shields may be considered as an alternative. The use of cloth masks (referred to as fabric masks in this document) as an alternative to medical masks is not considered appropriate for protection of health workers based on limited available evidence. One study that evaluated the use of cloth masks in a health care facility found that health care workers using cotton cloth masks were at increased risk of influenza-like illness compared with those who wore medical masks."

However, the WHO advice for the public, issued on the same date, recommends that the public should wear them. Why? The WHO was forced by political interference to amend its advice. The WHO has not performed its duty from the start of this outbreak, and that is a huge issue. It's about time that the media took notice of these things and actually gained corroborative evidence instead of jumping on the bandwagon in these desperate times.

I believe this to be a political judgment, not a scientific one, done this to try to appear as if they are doing something, and provide some (false) confidence to the population. The Government would be better to be up front about it. I can understand the pressure politicians are under, but I would prefer if they actually "followed the science", rather than grasping at populist straws.

The only messages that practically matter are “distance, distance, distance”, and the critical one which is never mentioned, to get as physically fit as possible, and give yourself the best chance of fighting the terrible virus.

Mark Innes, Elgin.