The time has come to eliminate all Covid restrictions and mask mandates on the European continent. This argument is only within the scope of Europe since many parts of the world still struggle with low vaccination supplies. This has led to a high death count and mass hospitalisations, which is not the case in the European Union.
Every single EU country has vaccinated more than 50% of its population and the largest six economies; Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands, have vaccinated more than 75% of their population.
According to the Institute of Global Health in Barcelona, the mortality rate of contracting COVID while being fully vaccinated is 0.007%. Whilst the CDC in the United States says this figure is as low as less than 0.001%. This shows how the vaccine lowers the chances of death dramatically, therefore, why should one still be forced to “protect” themselves, if the risk has been lowered dramatically? Individuals no longer have to be protected by the government, as this risk has been reduced.
Spain, the country in which I reside, has the highest vaccination rate at 88.5%, this number represents the population that can get vaccinated, over 12 years old. Therefore, due to the current situation regarding vaccinations, it is time for us as citizens of the EU to call on our leaders to eliminate mask mandates. We want to have our freedom back and we deserve to have it back.
Let me start by defining what the Oxford dictionary calls freedom; the ability for one to make their own decision without any impeding restriction. This can range from freedom of speech, belief, or assembly. In most Western countries and especially in the EU, individuals are guaranteed the right to free speech, assembly, expression, and religion.
Back in March 2020, restrictions were imposed by governments on their population due to the public health crisis which their nations were facing. Spain declared a “state of emergency” to tackle this crisis by closing non-essential businesses and making everyone stay at home. This declaration has now been deemed unlawful by Spain’s constitutional court. However, I am not here to discuss the legality of previous COVID restrictions, I want to argue about current ones.
Sweden is an example that can serve as an introduction to the discussion regarding freedom of choice. Sweden has maintained a strong anti-mask and anti-lockdown position throughout the pandemic. This was done because Swedish citizens listened to their health authorities and stayed at home as much as possible but were not forced to do so. They were still able to enjoy basic civil liberties, such as a decision whether to wear a mask or go for a walk outside…yes, basic liberties. Recently, we have even seen four Scandinavian airlines remove their mask mandate for flights between Scandinavian countries. Spain and Sweden are not directly comparable in their past strategies, however, I am emphasising that a libertarian approach of no forced mask use is not just an American concept, it’s a European one too.
Hungary is another EU country that has removed all mask mandates, par inside health facilities and, recently, public transportation in Budapest. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been advocating for wide vaccination as the true saviour of the COVID pandemic, however, he has left it up to individuals regarding their choice whether they wish to wear a mask. Vaccination in Hungary is lower compared to the Spanish figure at around 59%. However, deaths have remained low and hospitalizations are significantly lower than the figures in October 2020. Prime Minister Orban understands that there still will be infections and cases, but forcing people to wear a mask does not curb this, wide-spread vaccination does. The head of his office was quoted as saying, “The citizens of Hungary are adults, if anyone wants to, they can wear a mask.”
Above, I have mentioned two examples where two separate EU countries have given their citizens the freedom to make their own choice regarding if they would like to wear one or not. Most places in Europe have lifted their restrictions on travel, capacity, and outdoor mask requirements. This was done in accordance with vaccination rates which have led to a massive decrease in life-threatening infections, deaths, and hospitalisations.
Citizens in Europe have largely obliged and gotten themselves vaccinated, however, governments are not living up to their end of the bargain by not removing the remaining COVID restrictions still in place. Spain has an extremely high vaccination rate; however, you still must wear a mask inside. Why? I believe that as a citizen who has been fully vaccinated, and since others have had the resources available to them. I do not hold any obligation to wear the mask if I don’t want to. Vaccination campaigns in the EU now offer a vaccine to any person who wishes to get vaccinated, there is no discrimination or restriction to one’s social status, race, gender, or even legal status in the EU. Therefore, people who have decided not to get vaccinated have done so at their own risk. I no longer should HAVE to wear a mask to “protect” others. People have had the chance to get the vaccine, if they haven’t done so, that is their decision.
COVID is not going to go away any time soon, it is time for us as citizens to start living with it as the new normality. Citizens have been provided the resources to protect themselves, if they wish to do so, from COVID19, now it’s up to governments to give citizens their liberties back to make their own decision on how to “protect” themselves. Away with mask mandates!