Apparently, Winchester MP Steve Brine is ‘ambivalent’ about masks and has now twice abstained – refused to vote – for masks in shops and on public transport.

He told the Echo's sister paper the Hampshire Chronicle “I said in the Commons this week, my view on face masks is ambivalent but if people feel safer wearing them then it’s not a huge imposition”.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Brine said: “I think it is a bit of a crutch, but if people believe that it makes them safer, that is fine. In many ways, it is an instrument of people feeling they are safe.”

But masks aren’t there to make you feel safe.

Masks are there to catch exhaled aerosols and viruses they contain to protect others from infection.

That’s how masks slow the spread of Covid. And they work, which is why they are worn in hospitals and operating theatres. They are not ceremonial dress or virtue signalling or comfort blankets for frightened souls. They are a barrier to the spread of airborne pathogens by the wearer.

So why did our MP twice refuse to vote to introduce a proven, no-regrets public health safeguard as Omicron infections escalate?

Does a former health minister and member of the ‘Covid Recovery Group’ of backbenchers still not understand what masks do, 20 months into the pandemic?

Or is political ideology edging ahead of public health and the welfare of his constituents?

Whatever the case, this doesn’t help the constituency. The hospitality sector and the high street do not need ‘ambivalence’ and vote-dodging on masks. Nor does anyone else, including the NHS.

Mr Brine stated in Parliament that the exemptions in pubs and restaurants “make a mockery” of the mandate for masks in shops and on public transport. This is a self-serving exaggeration. His excusing his refusal to vote as merely not “standing in the way” of a mask mandate is disingenuous given that he misrepresents how they function.

The only downside to masks is not wearing them. Mr Brine urgently needs to bring his views and voting behaviour into line with scientific guidance on controlling airborne disease.

Dominic Bucknall