Lies, fake news and deception by the NPO, EenVandaag and the University of Twente
“Put on a mouth cap in a pub because according to research, it is indeed effective,” EenVandaag headlined in July last year. According to the programme, that research was carried out by the University of Twente. Inquiries, however, show that there was no research at all. EenVandaag and the University of Twente simply misled Dutch citizens.
“If we want to contain the corona virus, wearing a face mask in indoor spaces such as cafes is absolutely necessary. That is what researchers from the University of Twente say,” That's how Babette Kasteleijn wrote in an article on the website of EenVandaag on 22 July 2020. “The researchers from the University of Twente have come to this conclusion after analyzing a large number of existing studies on aerosols,” she reports.
The article refers to associate professor Rob Hagmeijer, who "talks about the results" of the research. At that time, face masks are only mandatory in public transport in the Netherlands. “Hagmeijer does not think this is sufficient,” the article reports. "I think of supermarkets and also in bars," he is quoted as saying.
“In France, Germany or Belgium you are not allowed to enter a shop or closed space without a mask,” notes Kastelein. “From July 24, that will also be the case in England. In some parts of Spain and Italy you can't even go out on the streets without it.”
Kasteleijn's article is part of a real media campaign that appears to be taking place in the summer of 2020. While the Dutch government has greatly relaxed the corona measures, many reports appear in the media that call for tougher measures. The left-wing opposition, in particular, is advocating the introduction of a mask obligation, which will also be introduced in the city centers of Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
But what exactly was the research on which Hagmeijer based his advice and to which EenVandaag referred?
Hagmeijer explains in the article that the one and a half meter rule is based on research that dates back to 1930. He states that it has now been shown that "the smaller drops" that are emitted by coughing or sneezing (apparently he means aerosols), come much further. than one and a half meters. “Well 6, 7 or 8 meters.” He bases his advice on making face masks mandatory in cafes and supermarkets.
Hagmeijer, that “specializes in how liquids flow”However, it appears that no research has been done at all into the functioning of mouth caps. We sent him an email asking for a link or reference to the research to which EenVandaag referred. He replied with a link to an article by Lydia Bourouiba of MIT, “Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions(March 26, 2020). This was therefore not a study by the University of Twente. In fact, it turned out not to be about mouth caps at all!
Hagmeijer added the following in his email: "It's a shame that there is so much disbelief and so little factual consideration and reliance on science. Do people think I like telling people that they should wear a mask in public places? Of course not. But I do know that if I am in the supermarket near someone with COVID who does not wear a mouth cap, there is a significantly greater chance that I will be infected than if the person does wear a mouth cap, see the above research.. "
We then asked Hagmeijer again about the investigation he allegedly conducted, to which EenVandaag referred. He replied: “That research consisted of reading the scientific literature, including the work of Lydia Bourouiba. "
He further wrote: "A publication has now also been published by the Physics-of-Fluids group of the UT [University of Twente] ” – but this research also turned out not to relate to mouth caps at all.
Hagmeijer's recommendations therefore turned out not to be based on research by the University of Twente, as reported by EenVandaag. Hagmeijer had only "read literature", especially the work of Bourouiba, in which, however, no mention is made of mouth caps or mouth masks.
EenVandaag campaigns for mouth caps with cheerful photo and reference to non-existent research
We then asked Hagmeijer a number of additional questions.
- Since there has been no research, what prompted the publication by EenVandaag? Who initiated it?
- The two publications you refer to in your emails relate to the spread of the virus, not the functioning of face masks. Have you also investigated the functioning of face masks before coming to the recommendation that they should be made mandatory in public places?
- To our knowledge, there have been 14 RCTs (randomized controlled trials) took place into the effectiveness of face masks in preventing the spread of virus, all 14 with negative results. Do you have this literature involved in your recommendations?
- Are you familiar with the research of Brauner et al that was presented by Jaap van Dissel in the House of Representatives on 21 January 2021 and which shows that wearing mouth caps has no effect on the spread of the virus?
- When making your recommendation, did you consider that the NEN standards are very strict for the hygienic use of mouth caps and hardly feasible in non-medical daily practice?
- When making your recommendation, did you consider that mouth caps also harmful effects entail, especially in long-term and non-hygienic use?
Hagmeijer did not answer any of these questions. He wrote to us, among other things:
- "My statements (July 2020) are not about the transmission of the virus, but only about the transfer of liquid, which is crystal clear in the EenVandaag text."
- “Ejected droplets will contain virus if the individual is COVID positive. It is therefore evident that if you counteract the emission of droplets, the emission of the virus is (partially) counteracted. Just as obvious as wearing a seat belt in the car (are you against that? Have you perhaps studied the possible negative health effects of seat belts?).”
- He added another PS to this: “In India and Brazil they have extensive experience with not wearing face masks, I don't think that went very well. "
Hagmeijer's first comment, that his statements would not be about transmission of the virus, is particularly remarkable. After all, he clearly states that he believes that people should wear face masks in public spaces to prevent the spread of the virus. In his email he also writes: "Do people think I like telling people that they should wear a mask in public places? " So he does have an opinion about the transmission of the virus.
His second comment, that it “evident" is that, "if you prevent the emission of droplets, then the emission of the virus is (partly) counteracted,” shows a clear lack of knowledge about face masks. He doesn't seem to realize that viruses to be so small that they are not stopped by mouth caps. He also doesn't seem to know anything about the risks and harmful effects of wearing face masks.
His third comment, about Brazil and India, is even stranger and more unscientific if possible. He doesn't seem to know anything about the many epidemiological studies who show that there is no link between the introduction of a mask obligation and corona infections and assumes without any evidence that Brazil and India's experiences with corona (whatever they may be) are due to the non-wearing of mouth masks in those countries. A bizarre conclusion.
After once again insisting in vain for an answer to our questions, Hagmeijer writes, to our surprise, the following: “The quality of mouth caps is not my domain, I have never claimed that. Of course I assume that the mouth caps that are used are checked for reliability, just like all other medical resources. That's obvious? "
Suddenly "the quality of mouth caps" appears not to be the domain of Hagmeijer - while he is presented as an expert by EenVandaag and believes that the Dutch people should tell them that they should start wearing mouth caps in shops and cafes!
He is also doing this at a time when the RIVM and the OMT are advising against the use of mouth caps and even Minister Hugo de Jonge still speaks of "false safety" when it comes to mouth caps. EenVandaag and Hagmeijer are therefore actively involved in a political discussion, suggesting that they can demonstrate on the basis of scientific research that face masks in supermarkets and cafes are useful to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In reality, as it turns out, there was no research at all. The article was fake news.
We asked EenVandaag about the reason for the article. We wondered, has EenVandaag contacted the University of Twente for this story? But why, because there was no research. Or has the University of Twente contacted EenVandaag? But why would they have done that, if there was no research?
A spokesperson for EenVandaag lets us know by email when asked: “Because this article is from more than a year ago, I cannot find out what the exact reason is to pay attention to this. At that time there was a lot of discussion about whether or not to start using mouth masks, which is in any case the direct reason that the radio colleagues made a topic about this."
Strangely enough, the spokesperson then adds the following: "In the piece [ie the piece by EenVandaag] I do not read anywhere that we are talking about an investigation by Mr Hagmeijer."
Not really? Here is the literal text of the headline and intro of the article by EenVandaag:
“Put on a mouth cap in a pub because according to research it is indeed effective”
“If we want to contain the corona virus, wearing a face mask in indoor spaces such as cafes is absolutely necessary. That is what researchers from the University of Twente say.”
“The researchers from the University of Twente have come to this conclusion after analyzing a large number of existing studies into aerosols.”
“Associate professor Rob Hagmeijer talks about the results…”
Nevertheless, EenVandaag claims that they are talking “nowhere” about research by Hagmeijer or the University of Twente.
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