A scientist involved in the discussions said Nervtag’s assessment found “there is no compelling case for the universal wearing of face masks”.
He said: “Sage can ignore the technical advice they are being given or else ministers can overrule it but let’s not pretend that would be a decision led by the science but rather by social media and the tabloid media.
“There are lots of problems with masks – not least you would need a lot of them. With paper masks you have to change them frequently and put them on and take them off in a hygienic fashion. Hospital staff are trained to do this, the general population is not. They should be disposed of by incineration.
“The cloth masks being advocated are even more scary because they get warm and moist and bacteria love warm and moist environments.”
He suggested that scientists involved in the discussions were reluctant to back the use of masks, but felt under increasing pressure over the matter.
“Sage have had three goes at making a decision on this and failed each time,” he said, saying that the committee “knows the science isn’t there”.
“If Sage chooses to overrule Nervtag, that is up to them, but if they do overlook the science that puts them in an awkward position. Sage is torn between telling ministers what they would like to hear and their own credibility as scientists,” he added.