‘Soon there will be a new cultural and political dividing line: face masks’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Boris Johnson wearing a face mask
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

1. Pro and anti-maskers are new Remainers and Leavers, with same tribes

Matthew Lynn for The Telegraph

on the debate over face masks

“A few things will always unite us as a nation,” says Matthew Lynn in The Telegraph. “Gareth Southgate is the wisest person who ever lived. The French are just a little on the snooty side of things. And Bake Off hasn’t been as good since it switched to Channel 4.” But “after Brexit and the woke wars”, this list is becoming shorter and shorter. The latest item to add to the “cultural and political dividing line” is face masks, which are set to become a matter of personal choice after all lockdown restrictions are lifted on 19 July. In an ideal world, it would “be possible to see something of value in each point of view”, writes Lynn. “But the great mask debate isn’t really about clinical efficacy or the coherence of the rules. It’s about signalling the sort of person you are. Are you freedom-loving and rational, or socially responsible and selfless?”

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2. What’s the best birthday gift the NHS could get? More capacity

Andrew Goddard for The Independent

on a healthier future

Today the NHS celebrates its 73rd birthday and the best gift we could give staff is more capacity, writes Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, in The Independent. Having worked on Covid-19 wards, Goddard knows “how hard a hit” the NHS has taken over the past 16 months. “The key part of the solution is more staff.” According to Goddard, the UK has just under three doctors for every 1,000 people, far fewer per head compared to our international counterparts. It’s “worse for nursing”, with just 7.78 nurses per 1,000 people compared to 11.89 in the US and 13.22 in Germany. More staff and better workforce planning could be transformational for an overstretched NHS. “It’s natural for birthdays to be a time for looking back but let’s make the last year a turning point and look forward to a new future.”

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3. Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon CEO. He’ll still have huge power at the company

Clare Duffy for CNN

on change at the top

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down today as chief executive, marking the end of a “more than two-decade run leading the company through its evolution from online bookseller to $1.75 trillion global retail, logistics and internet behemoth”, says Clare Duffy on CNN. But despite stepping back into a less public-facing role, as the company’s largest individual shareholder, a mentor to the incoming CEO and head of the board, “Bezos will still have tremendous influence at Amazon for years to come”. Bezos’s departure comes at a “critical time” for the controversial corporation, writes Duffy. “Not having the richest man on Earth at the company’s helm could help it better weather some of that scrutiny.” But giving up his CEO title does not necessarily mean that Bezos is giving up his power.

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4. Miracle cures and magnetic people. Brazil’s fake news is utterly bizarre

Vanessa Barbara for The New York Times

on Covid-19 confusion

There are “dozens” of fake news stories circulating about Covid-19 treatments on social media in Brazil, says Vanessa Barbara in The New York Times. One is that all ICU beds in Miracatu, a municipality in the state of Sao Paulo, are empty because the city’s mayor adopted the “early treatment” for Covid-19 endorsed by President Jair Bolsonaro. “OK, Miracatu does not have a hospital. But still: How can we be sure?” Half a million Brazilians have died during the pandemic, but “even now” citizens are sharing “delirious claims” with one another, writes Barbara. “In the absence of a public information campaign about the virus” many Brazilians have had no choice but to rely on misguided and dangerous information available on social media platforms. “That gives those who peddle fake news enormous power.”

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5. What it’s really like to be on the dating scene with a disability

Lottie Jackson for The Sunday Times

on the right to find love

Dating is awkward for anyone, but it’s “even more complicated” for people with disabilities, says Lottie Jackson in The Sunday Times. “It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that only 5% of able-bodied people have been on a date with a disabled person.” This year’s series of Love Island features the show’s first contestant with a physical disability: 24-year-old PE teacher Hugo Hammond, who was born with a clubfoot. Hammond says he wants to “prove that people with disabilities have just as much right to find love”, Jackson writes. “I really do hope he succeeds… everyone has a right to love – in sickness and in health.”

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