Too often in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic the Government has lagged behind other countries.
Now, the Government must belatedly acknowledge that its failure to endorse the mass wearing of face masks was perverse.
My own suspicion is that they allowed this ambiguity to fester only because they knew they had failed to stockpile sufficient supplies to hand out on the streets.
This is why the Daily Mail is absolutely correct today to demand the Government regard sourcing sufficient quantities of facial protection as a new priority in containing the pandemic.
Once again, we are merely trailing behind much of mainland Europe which has already concluded that masks save lives.
Germany yesterday announced it would easing its restrictions imposed following the outbreak of coronavirus. But the German government says people should wear face masks out in public. Pictured: A woman wearing a protective face mask while walking in East London
As supplies in shops have long run out, some enterprising individuals have fashioned their own masks out of handkerchiefs and scarves which, frankly, would offer only limited protection.
Of the manufactured options, the basic surgical mask as worn by a nurse or doctor performing routine procedures offers some protection, though the viral droplets are tiny and can certainly get through the cotton or polyester material.
But, they are a very good way of stopping the wearer spreading the virus to others, by keeping exhalations from dispersing.
The more reliable mask option is the N-95, which is more accurately called a respirator.
It has a plastic valve that regulates breathing, and the material is thicker than in the standard surgical mask.
The N-95 is typically used by clinical staff needing to intubate a gravely ill patient, and blocks out roughly 95 per cent of the droplets.
Neither mask offers absolute protection because Covid-19 is transmitted in absolutely tiny droplets.
But I tend to apply the principle of firing an arrow through a forest: that is, the arrow might make its way to the other side, but it is more than likely to hit a tree somewhere, just as the microscopic droplet is likely to hit the fabric of the mask.
But there is an even more important factor at play here, and that is the psychology of the individual.
If you are wearing a mask, you feel you are somehow dressed for battle with the coronavirus. It gives you a ring of confidence.
It is a constant reminder to the wearer of the threat of infection all around you; it will stop you touching your mouth when you are out of your home; it will remind to you maintain the two-metre distancing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to speculate about how and when the shutdown in the UK will be lifted
It reminds other people, and the wearer, what we are all up against.
Mr Hancock refused to speculate about how and when the shutdown will be lifted, but at some point relaxation will have to come to save us from the sort of economic annihilation that will preclude future spending on the NHS.
One of the great mysteries of this pandemic is why the NHS is unable to offer its staff and care home workers the sort of personal protection equipment still being advertised on Amazon.
The basic surgical masks can be bought very cheaply, and the N-95 version for about £7 each.
Given that it has taken on emergency powers, it is not clear to me why the Government has not simply commandeered them.
In the meantime I would strongly urge Mail readers to procure and wear masks.
Some of us used to regard the Japanese habit of wearing face masks in public as slightly hysterical, but I suspect many of us will be doing so long after the infection curve has peaked.
Source: Martin Scurr