The mask mandate has been dropped in a total of 22 countries, with health care facilities remaining the only exception to the decision.
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Since January of this year, mask mandates have been lifted in 22 nations throughout the world.
Following a judge’s decision to overturn a federal mask regulation for interstate travel, the United States has joined almost two dozen other countries in ending broad mask and pandemic measures this year.
On Jan. 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the lifting of mask mandates in public areas, citing government researchers’ findings that the worst of the Omicron variant cases had already peaked.
In addition, in England, face coverings are no longer required legally on public transportation.
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Scotland implemented previously mentioned revisions to mask regulations on April 18, removing the legal requirement for most indoor locations and public transportation.
Masks are no longer needed throughout the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland and Ireland, however they are recommended at some indoor venues.
Health-care facilities, on the other hand, are an exception, where wearing a protective face covering is still required.
In Latin America, mask regulations have been removed in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, and the Dominican Republic.
In most states, Mexico also dropped its mandate for face coverings.
After the government revoked the COVID-19 state of emergency in October 2021, the Dominican Republic, a prominent Caribbean vacation destination, dropped its mask regulations in February.
President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic stated, “It is time to recover all of our freedoms and way of life.”
In April, several countries, including Paraguay, Brazil, Italy, and South Africa, announced the end of their national health emergencies.
Italy, which was one of the worst-affected countries in terms of severe COVID-19 infections and mortality in the early months of the pandemic, is not taking the mandates lightly.
Outdoors, face coverings will no longer be needed, but they will be required indoors until April 30, after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised a gradual return to normalcy.
“Our goal is to reopen fully as soon as possible,” Draghi stated in a speech from Florence, Italy, in February.
The potential repercussions of removing mask mandates and reducing COVID-19 prevention measures are not universally agreed upon by health experts.
“You’ve got to end it sometime,” Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California–Irvine Medical Center, said of mask restrictions.
Some analysts believe governments were hasty in repealing mask mandates with the advent of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
While the association between COVID-19 cases and severe outcomes has decoupled, Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, warns that the new variants should not be ignored.
“Although some [deaths after a positive test] are incidental, there is a very large proportion that are deaths due to COVID-19. It’s a very concerning situation,” Gurdasani said.
Nonetheless, a domino effect of governments liberating their citizens from mask mandates has occurred. Such regulations have been repealed in Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands.
Across the board, health care facilities remain the exception.
Maldives and Aruba, two international tourist hotspots that suffered economic losses as a result of pandemic lockdowns, followed suit by removing mask requirements and appealing to a broader network of travelers.
Poland, Latvia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic are some of the European countries that have joined the bandwagon. Even France has softened its stance on the mandatory usage of face masks, with the exception of public transportation and health-care facilities.
After a federal judge suspended the measure’s enforcement on April 18, the United States has become a battleground over President Joe Biden’s mask mandate.
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle determined that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which originally issued the mandate, had overstepped its authority and neglected to seek public comment before issuing the mandate.
The biggest issue, according to health professionals, when it comes to removing mask restrictions is limiting the spread of COVID-19. And Gohil isn’t certain that removing requirements means the world will be free of masks forever.
“When rates go up, we should get those masks back on, and when rates go back down, we might be able to be more liberal,” she said.
In most countries, deaths aren’t rising at the same rate as recent cases with the new BA.2 subvariant, which is consistent with the original Omicron strain found in November 2021.
The Omicron variation and its subvariants are more transmissible, according to the CDC, but they produce less severe illness in patients than early COVID-19 strains.