Masks Have Left Town

Read “Masks Arrived In Town” before, if you haven’t already.

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Visiting Fraser Island has been on our bucket list for over 10 years, as of last week it isn’t any longer.

We left Noosa early Tuesday morning and the whole town was still masked; Rainbow Beach, where we picked up the rental 4WD and grabbed a coffee, was as well.

The barge took us to the biggest sand island in the world and what ensued were 6 days of driving on the beach and bumpy sand roads; postcard like imagery; and experiences augmented by technological inaccessibility… pure bliss.

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From a paradisiacal hiatus, we returned to a world that was unrecognisable from the one we had left. Absolutely surreal.

The state-wide mask mandate ended Thursday and we got back to the main island (i.e. Australia mainland) on Sunday.
Washed the rental car, returned it and had breakfast at Rainbow Beach; refuelled at a busy service station near Gympie; already in Noosa, stopped to buy a couple of items for lunch; later I went to the supermarket; and drove around town.
That day, I was actively looking for them but couldn’t find a single person wearing a mask. From the hundreds I crossed paths with, not one.

Monday, back in the office, the exact same pattern: I had left masked colleagues and came back to unmasked ones.
Up to the posting of these words, of the thousands of people I’ve seen since Sunday, I have not seen one single mask anywhere: not in faces, chins, elbows, hands, sneaking out of pockets, or even as accessories trapped between wallet and phone.

Mind you, I’m not complaining, not at all. I’ve already confessed my aversion to masks and have recently realised how much I value being able to see other people’s teeth and noses.
But I am worried, that I am. Unquestioning obedience is something I try to teach my children as being something extremely undesirable. Though, if it indeed takes a tribe to raise a child, my fellow citizens aren’t helping me getting this message across.

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I don’t get it. What has actually changed?
The 8 cases (2 were false positives) in Brisbane, used as justification for this fortnight mask mandate had all been isolated and their contacts traced before the restrictions were in place; Noosa has had the same number of confirmed cases for long months now, totalling ZERO; Queensland has less than 80 active cases and 7 people have died to date (from the neo-bubonic plague, that is).

How has the risk of infection been minimised/eliminated by everyone wearing masks during a randomly stipulated timeframe?

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On that note, the fortnight timeframe seems to be quite popular for managing this pandemic, after all “It’s only 2 weeks to flatten the curve”.
In Portugal, the phrase: “The next 2 weeks will be absolutely crucial to curtail the pandemic” , has been uttered, on a daily basis for more than a year, by “specialists” and those in charge. It reminds me of my student days and a note I had on the wall saying: “Tomorrow I’ll start studying!”

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow, but tomorrow will always be in the future. Anyway, time is a baffling concept, indeed! It surely makes us get used to all sort of things.

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What evidence supports the measures taken and the restrictions imposed?

What measurable data, anywhere in the world, shows that masks and confinements help stemming the pandemic? Flatten the curve?

I really don’t get it. What has actually changed?

This period was the most ephemeral government imposed fad I’ve seen, with close to 100% levels of compliance – Queenslanders are very obedient and/or very responsible.

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The Law

Notwithstanding my personal views on mask usage, there is a very pertinent point to consider: the law.
Being a firm believer in the rule of law as one of the 4 pillars of a prosperous state (democracy; freedom of speech; and private property being the others), I can relate to the argument: “the law must be complied with”.

However, to prevent mindless obedience and to remind lawmakers that they work for me, not the other way around, one must ask semi-philosophical questions: where do laws come from; what’s their purpose; who do they serve/protect; and why they’re put in place.

Before being implemented, laws are proposed, discussed, questioned and agreed upon by a majority – it’s part of the democratic process.
Laws can’t be random and must somehow be substantiated. Being a “numbers guy”, ideally they’d be solely based on empirical data. Having said that, I’m well aware that there are moral and ethical dimensions to any law and a subjacent hierarchy of values, one where human life reigns supreme.

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It is not clear to me that mandating masks; imposing lock-downs; rescinding people’s right to work; prohibiting children to attend school; and other rights and freedoms depriving measures, have an impact on managing the spread of the virus.

Countries around the world, and states within a country (USA), have taken different approaches but the virus’ behaviour hasn’t changed significantly. There is no evidence of correlation between these (draconian) measures and their consequences… only with regards to the virus, because when it comes to social, economic and mental health, the damage done (and to come) is already quite clear and Portugal is (and will be) suffering far more than Sweden.

Contrary to imposing and enforcing speed limits and the use of seatbelts, laws mandating the use of masks or the mass confinement of healthy people, have not shown to reduce the number of virus’ caused fatalities.

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It’s been over a year, don’t we already have a lot of data to draw some conclusions and adjust our approach?
Why are we still allowing sentiment to overrule reason? Fear is very powerful, I know and the survival instinct quite difficult to turn-off.
What are the odds of someone dying if infected?
What are the odds of someone under 60 dying if infected?
What are the odds of developing an autoimmune disease?
What are the odds of achieving 0 risk?
What are the odds of living forever?

You can call me cold, but I’m not, numbers are. I’m quite the sentimentalist actually, but in the words of Ben Shapiro: facts don’t care about my feelings.

In the face of such uncertainty, is it right, lawful, moral or ethical to deprive me of my right to bodily autonomy? My freedom of movement? My right to work? My children’s right to an education?
I think not, we’re not dealing with a war or the Spanish flu.

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Freedom and security are inversely proportional: the more you have of one, the less you get of the other.
I know my risk matrix is quite different than most but I have a strong (but not blind… as far as I can see) bias towards freedom.
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