Face masks: what can the 1918-20 influenza pandemic teach us?

Face masks

Honorary Fellow Professor Samuel Cohn has written a fascinating piece for The Conversation about face masks and their use during the influenza pandemic of 1918-20:

...Should people be forced to wear face masks in public? That’s the question facing governments as more countries unwind their lockdowns. Over 30 countries have made masks compulsory in public, including Germany, Austria and Poland. This is despite the science saying masks do little to protect wearers, and only might prevent them from infecting other people.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has nonetheless announced new guidelines advising Scots to wear masks for shopping or on public transport, while the UK government is expected to announce a new stance shortly. Meanwhile, US vice president Mike Pence has controversially refused to mask up.

This all has echoes of the great influenza pandemic, aka the Spanish flu, which killed some 50 million people in 1918-20. It’s a great case study in how people will put up with very tough restrictions, so long as they think they have merit...

The full article is available here: https://theconversation.com/face-masks-what-the-spanish-flu-can-teach-us-about-making-them-compulsory-137648