During the bleak early years of the Covid pandemic, if there was one thing we were all doing, it was “following the science”. This, we were repeatedly assured, was what was driving all the government’s tough decisions. We might not like all its policies but we shouldn’t, it was implied, argue. After all, it was – always – just “following the science”. But was it really?
In her evidence to the Covid inquiry, former civil servant Helen MacNamara revealed that in April 2020, the then prime minister, Boris Johnson, asked the former chief executive of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens, about reports that female frontline healthcare workers were struggling with PPE that had been designed for men. Stevens is said to have “reassured” the prime minister that there was “no problem”.
However, as Caroline Criado Perez highlights, report after report over decades has found that while PPE is usually marketed as gender-neutral, the vast majority has in fact been designed around a male body, and therefore neither fits nor protects women. In fact, more often than not, it’s a hindrance.