From science to politics
Before the Corona Pandemic, consensus among experts was that face masks provide little protection. The Chinese who were already used to face masks against air pollution, found it natural to use face masks also against viruses. Then the world followed.
However, the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM) did not recommend the use of face masks in public environments but only in hospitals and special situations. FHM has so far dared to go against the international campaign for face masks. They would not have dared to do so if they had not had significant support in research.
Admittedly, the position of research is still unclear. But international statistics clearly shows that it is doubtful that mandatory face masks would reduce mortality.
From being a medical issue, face masks became a political signal. The best example was in the United States. President Donald Trump - who had access to the world's foremost Corona experts at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resources Center – in the beginning of the Pandemic refused to wear or advocate a face mask.
“In July 2020, however, he began both wearing and advocating face masks. The background is said to be that the president listened to information from his adviser Kellyanne Conway that the opinion figures have dropped… (SVT.se 22 July 2020).
Both individual researchers and research groups in Sweden have since then demanded mandatory face masks also in Sweden. In early November, they received strong support. In the evening news on Swedish Public Television, the reporter put a question to a representative of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences approximately like this "but the opinion among scientists is divided about the effectiveness of face masks". The answered was the following: "but since last spring, there have been 70 scientific reports on their effectiveness."
That statement was false but has not been recanted either by the Public Television or the Academy of Science.Since then, FHM has had to back down a bit and recommends face masks in rush hours on public transport - but it is not compulsory.
And the pressure is still there. "Now we must ensure that there is mouth protection in all public indoor environments," says Anders W Jonsson, first vice chairman of the Center party. (SVT 2021-01-25) So far, there are no mandatory rules for face masks in Sweden. But how long can FHM withstand the domestic and international pressure?