A large-scale study in Denmark that sought to determine if masks help stop the spread of Covid-19 has been rejected by several prestigious journals. The authors hinted that their findings were inconvenient to the status quo.
The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the American Medical Association Journal all turned down the paper, Danish media reported on Thursday.
The study, which began in late April, involved 6,000 Danes, half of whom were asked to wear masks at all times in public places. The other half were selected as a control group and were instructed not to cover their faces. After a month, participants were tested for Covid-19 as well as for antibodies against the virus.
The study’s researchers have remained tight-lipped about their findings, but they’ve dropped plenty of clues that suggest it was the paper’s conclusion, not its methodology, that led to the journals’ rejections.
“We can’t start discussing what they are dissatisfied with. For if so, we must also explain what the study showed. And we do not want to discuss this until it has been published,” Christian Torp-Pedersen, professor and chief physician at the research department at North Zealand Hospital, told Denmark’s Berlingske daily.
Another member of the study’s team wrote in an email shared by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson last week that their findings would be published “as soon as a journal is brave enough to accept the paper.”
Denmark currently requires masks to be worn on public transport, as well as in bars and restaurants when patrons leave their table.
There is a raging debate worldwide over mask mandates that purport to halt the transmission of coronavirus.
Japanese researchers recently published a study that found that masks can offer some degree of protection from airborne Covid-19 particles, but noted that even professional-grade face coverings can’t completely eliminate the risk of contagion.
Curiously, at the start of the pandemic, many health officials and organizations urged against widespread mask use in the general public, describing such policies as ineffective. For example, in a March interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Covid-19 task force, insisted there was no reason for seemingly healthy people to be “walking around in a mask.” At the time, his views reflected a wide consensus among medical institutions and professionals, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US surgeon general. Fauci, the WHO, and the CDC later reversed their recommendations and supported mask mandates.
However, many have argued that there is still inadequate data to support mandatory mask-wearing. Deborah Cohen, the medically qualified UK correspondent of BBC2’s Newsnight, reported in July that the WHO committee reviewing the organization’s mask recommendation was motivated by political lobbying, not new scientific evidence.
There appears to be no correlation between cases and mask mandates allegedly put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Countries such as the Czech Republic have seen a surge in new cases, requiring masks in public places. At the same time, South Korea, which also has a mask mandate, has not seen a significant increase in positive Covid-19 test results.