“We can’t stir a finger in this world without the risk of bringing death to somebody.” – Tarrou in The Plague, by Albert Camus


New rules in Japan in April 2023 regarding infection prevention at universities

The Ministry of Education in Japan (monbukagakusho) announced recently that in all university courses of the spring 2023 semester, up to less half of all the class meetings can be taught remotely. This was the policy in the academic year 2022, and it will probably continue for a couple of years. However, when classes are taught remotely, this year the lessons should be delivered “on demand” because students have to be on campus to attend class meetings before and after the remotely taught class.

If a teacher wishes to teach using Zoom in realtime (synchronous) lessons, under the new rules, students will now have to attend the class by sitting in the designated classroom for the course. The students cannot be “present” from a remote location outside the classroom. Only the teacher will be outside the classroom. This is probably not going to be a practical or favorable way to proceed for students or teachers, so it would be best for teachers to prepare on-demand (asynchronous) lessons if they really cannot take the risk of being infected by a virus. In addition, teachers have to announce the dates they will teach remotely, in their syllabuses or at the first class at the latest.


A photo from Beirut in 2020, a lasting symbol of the deliberate fakery of the news media at the launch of the corona crisis. Pity the person behind the camera for being deprived of protection, or the person in front of the camera for the performance she was forced to give?

Obviously, it is not possible for a teacher to know in advance which days she will have greater reason to stay home due to possible infection or due to dangerous levels of virus particles in the environment. The policy appears to be merely offering gradual withdrawal to those habituated to the way things were.

There seems to be no possible risk reduction in going from all the classes on campus down to half the classes on campus, so the implicit drift of the policy seems to be that the emergency situation is gradually ending, and teachers are expected to be back in the classroom. Most of them were already back in the classroom throughout 2022. Reading between the lines, one can see that there will soon be no allowances made for staff who have health considerations or considerations for the health of people they live with. The risk is now considered to be low, or as low as it ever was when influenza, for example, posed a risk every winter to vulnerable people, or when there are other risks such as the possibility of being involved in an accident on the way to work. Therefore, employees have to accept the risks if they want to continue working beyond this year.

This could all change if another wave of infections comes, but even then, the government may have decided that the policies of the 2020-2022 period were too harmful and misguided and will never be invoked again.

There is still a lot of ambiguity and contradiction in the mask policies. Students can choose for themselves whether they wear a mask, but employees can “request” that they wear a mask in certain situations to keep others safe.

One indication that not much will change is that the dean of the faculty where I work recently said language teachers would be permitted to remove their masks to “demonstrate correct pronunciation.” That’s the extent of what is considered safe, or all that one can dare to do.  Correct pronunciation is something I will be doing with every word I speak, and beyond that I may decide to demonstrate the proper way to rest one’s speech articulators during moments of silence.

One might think that coerced wearing of masks indicates an emergency response to a dangerous disease present in the environment, but if that risk still exists, why are we no longer teaching remotely? If it is safe to be back in the classroom, it must be safe to take off the masks. There will always be bits of RNA floating in the air, and there will always be a risk that asymptomatic persons will infect others. That was true in the past when no one was required to wear a mask, and it will always be true. It is also true that there are hundreds of risks people accept every day in going about their lives. Are people going to wear masks forever? As the recent Cochrane Review paper stated in its conclusions, mask wearing can be “risk compensation behavior leading to an exaggerated sense of security.” The Cochrane Review also showed that no one can say with certainty, “It would have been worse without masks.” The randomized controlled trials all showed that the number of infections was not lower in the masked portion of the trial participants.


Swiss Policy Research (SPR) has reported on mask studies since 2020. Three years before the Cochrane Review paper, they summarized all the existing studies on mask usage. Thus the conclusions made by the Cochrane Review are not new. There is nothing groundbreaking about this information. The chart above is captioned on SPR’s website: “A long-term analysis (of 2021) shows that infections have been driven primarily by seasonal and endemic factors, whereas mask mandates and lockdowns have had no discernible impact.” Source: “Are Face Masks Effective? The Evidence.” Swiss Policy Research, July 2020, updated in February 2023.The chart shows the number of infections recorded during the period from January 2020 to August 2021. Data from other countries, showing a similar pattern, is also posted in this article.


With the masks providing the illusion of security and a sort of “license” to go back to normal activities, people continued to spread the virus throughout the large waves of infection we saw in Japan in 2021 and 2022. Masks did nothing except give people this false sense of security and virtue that they were doing something to protect themselves and others. They crammed into bars, restaurants, shopping malls, stadiums and classrooms believing that they were good people doing the right thing because they were wearing masks. It is possible that this false confidence increased the number of infections.

I noticed too in the autumn of 2022 that the fans at baseball games in Japan all wore masks while seated outdoors, but in the same season the Japanese soccer fans who went to Qatar for the World Cup all sat together in a cheering section but did not wear masks, only because no one in the stadium was wearing masks. Such behavior shows they wear masks in Japan without accepting the argument that there is a scientific basis for wearing masks. They obeyed society’s rules the minute they set foot back in Japan. It is purely a matter of social coercion and blind obedience. The masks would be more appropriately worn over their eyes.

All the while, everyone forgot that there is a cost-benefit calculation in wearing masks, and no one seemed concerned with the costs: monetary cost, garbage (massive amounts of plastic pollution that no one seems to care about), hindrance of social and language development, inconvenience, discomfort, and hygiene (the masks become dirty and contaminated with bacteria during use). As for the benefits, they are unknowable and so far, unproven, as shown by the studies covered in the Cochrane Review. As shown in the chart above, the last two summers (not in 2020, but in 2021-2022, after the vaccines arrived), the corona virus spread widely in Japan in spite of the 99.9% adherence to mask-wearing in public places. Infections declined as each variant went extinct on its own accord. When the wave declined, instead of forming some serious doubts about their beliefs, people seemed to think, “Oh, finally, mask-wearing has paid off. We just weren’t doing it hard enough before.”

Of course, you can find all the studies and demonstrations showing how one mask can block the spray from a sneeze. Controlled, small-scale studies can show that a mask worn by an infected person contains trapped virus particles. Television audiences were repeatedly shown graphic videos of sneezesnot flying out of a nose in slow motion, with droplets all lit up with professional lighting in front of a dark background. The dramatic, frightening message was drilled into people’s heads. However, the studies covered by the Cochrane Review were studies of hundreds of people using masks in “real-world” settings, and the review concluded that there was no demonstrated benefit to using masks in institutional settings. Virus particles are aerosolized. They pass through masks or come in over the tops and sides of the masks. If a person sits in a room with infected people for a length of time, the air will be permeated with viruses and a mask will make little difference. It may have stopped a droplet from a sneeze landing on a mouth, but it can’t protect a person in the long run. Eventually everyone gets exposed. Ventilating the room has a much more positive effect, and, unlike masks, it causes no harm or inconvenience.

There are some behavior modifications that would have had tremendous benefits, and they could have been forced on everyone the way masks were. But that would have been an infringement not of the right to show one’s face but of the right to get drunk, eat donuts and lie on the sofa. People could have been “requested” to lose weight, take vitamin and mineral supplements, eat prebiotic and probiotic foods, exercise and quit consuming unhealthy substances. Instead, we saw such initiatives as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enlisting McDonald’s, producer and promoter of some of the unhealthiest ultra-processed food on the planet, to promote its COVID-19 public health education campaign. Their joint initiative debuted May 2021. With other fast-food corporations, the government formed partnerships to fight the pandemic, further normalizing the consumption of foods that lead to chronic disease and premature death, including death from respiratory viruses.

Early treatment could have been provided at local clinics rather than designated regional “corona” hospitals. Perfect compliance with requests to adopt healthy habits would not have been achievable, and they would not have prevented death in all cases, but if such behavioral changes had been “requested” the way mask-wearing was, the benefits would have been significant, and the hospitalization and death rate could have been lower. Perhaps it would have been the much the same, though, because most of the deaths occurred in people who were past the age of average life expectancy. The best way to protect them was focused protection—not with the misguided masking policies—as endorsed by the Great Barrington Declaration signed by thousands of medical professionals.

So as I go back to the classroom in April and consider how much risk reduction will be achieved by wearing masks, I have to conclude the risk is exceedingly small and not worth the costs. We can open windows to ventilate the room. The average age in the room, with me included, is twenty-two. Everyone who wanted the vaccine got the vaccine. What are we afraid of at this time? Does the vaccine work or not? Almost everyone has vaccine acquired immunity (according to the official statements about vaccine efficacy) or natural immunity from infection. People who have symptoms have been told to stay home. That leaves us with the “asymptomatic spreader.” It’s a risk that exists with other viruses, and we had always accepted that we had to live with that risk in order to carry on with economic and social life. In 2020, the fear of asymptomatic transmission was amplified to erase the previous commonsense approach to dealing with such infections during a pandemic: if you have symptoms, stay home. That’s the best we can do. The amplified fear of asymptomatic spread was a key part of the strategy because without it, all of the non-medical interventions during the Covid crisis would have been impossible to sell to the public. Swiss Policy Research notes:

Indeed, without insidious pre-symptomatic aerosol transmission—which doesn’t require any “droplets” produced by coughing or sneezing—the coronavirus pandemic would probably not have been possible. Given that aerosol transmission occurs almost only indoors and face masks are ineffective against aerosols, public health policy should likely focus on improving indoor air quality, especially in important public venues.

The Cochrane Review paper, interestingly, does not discuss aerosol transmission as a cause of infection or as a possible explanation of the failure of studies to find masks effective. Instead, the authors emphasized with great humility, as if they feared a backlash, how it is possible that all the randomized control studies they reviewed may be flawed in some unperceived way. However, aerosol transmission of viruses is common knowledge, so it is odd that they overlooked it as the most likely explanation of why masks are ineffective.

So supposedly, for a few days this year, before I start to feel symptoms (and I might never develop symptoms), I may be exhaling virus particles into the room, particles which couldn’t be stopped by a mask in spite of the faith of those who impose masking rules (or I should say “requests”). If I don’t wear a mask year-round, someone already protected by vaccination or previous infection will, hypothetically, get infected from those exhalations, also perhaps without symptoms, and she will unwittingly infect her vaccinated grandmother who will, hypothetically, die from the infection.

I venture a guess that the chance of my causing a death indirectly like this is about 0.0001%, with or without a mask. But maybe it wouldn’t be my fault. It would be the fault of the 2nd, 3rd, or nth person in the chain of infection. Or perhaps everyone would be guilty. If I wear a mask, the mask believers hope that the risk would go down to possibly 0.00005%. Likewise, if I drive a car, the risk of someone dying from air pollution will also increase by some small increment. The fundamental question that no one seems to ask is why anyone should have to be held responsible, through a chain of contagion of multiple people, for an elderly person with a weak immune system dying from a viral infection. We are supposed to accept death in old age as the price of living life fully before old age. But perhaps I am a fool to believe such a thing.

Death among the elderly from viral infections  happened thousands of times in Japan every year before 2020. There were 1.44 million total deaths in Japan in 2021, yet the WHO reports, “In Japan, from 3 January 2020 to … 21 March 2023, there have been 33,374,303 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 73,511 deaths, reported to WHO.” [emphasis added] All cause mortality in Japan rose by 4.9% in the 2020-2021 period, but that figure is almost three times larger than the percentage of deaths attributed to Covid indicated by 73,511 deaths over three years (1.44 million x 3 years = 4.32 million deaths, divided by 73,511 Covid deaths = 1.7%) . Thus it wasn’t the virus that caused the increase, yet no one has been concerned enough to massively disrupt society in order to find the causes of those deaths and prevent them.

There has been an absurd shift in moral reasoning, one that certainly has no basis in law. A person cannot be charged with negligent death simply because he failed to wear a mask one day and someone somewhere died from a viral infection. Regardless of how one feels about the moral responsibility, whatever the risk is, it is exceedingly small, and I just don’t understand why all the “smart” people working at a university don’t see how absurd this situation has become. All the people with doctorate degrees whom I work with are supposedly committed to rational inquiry and basing decisions on evidence rather than faith.

If I have to wear a mask at all times for the entire year to stop the remote possibility of someone somewhere dying, then the logic implies that I will have to wear a mask forever. Viruses will always be present in the air. They were always present in the air before everything changed, apparently, in 2020. I stayed quiet at work for three years and tried not to upset people during their time of high anxiety. I played their game, but three years is my limit. The real problem may be that by this time, people have grown to actually love their masks. They prefer to hide their smiles and frowns. They like the easy display of virtue. It’s so much easier than the hard work one has to do to become healthy. Some young people have lost the confidence to show their faces to the world. They prefer to hide what they believe to be their imperfect teeth and their unattractive faces. They like saving money on cosmetics. They like the warm, isolated feeling of their facial expressions being hidden from others. No more social pressure to give a fake smile. They prefer the social withdrawal. Instead of going any further with this rant, perhaps I should just say, “Sorry, folks. All good things must come to an end.” 

Roxy Music, Manifesto (1979). “Roots strain against the grain with brute force. You’d better hold out when you’re in doubt. Question what you see, and when you find an answer, bring it home to me.” The masquerade-party look of the mannequins in this cover was chilling when I first saw it many years ago. No one is making eye contact. One person is blindfolded. Are they mannequins or people? Is it a photo or a painting? Roxy Music was always good at reflecting our alienation back at us.