A little over a week ago, the Argentine government declared that the use of masks in open and uncrowded spaces is not mandatory. The decision was announced by the Ministry of Health of the Nation, based on sustained data on the drop in infections for 16 consecutive weeks and on the rate of deaths and hospitalizations per covid-19 for 14 consecutive weeks.
During this period, the country went from 44.46% to 47.44% of the population vaccinated with the two doses against covid-19 and showed a 39% drop in the moving average of deaths from the disease.
In Brazil: Federal government bought inappropriate masks for more than double the price of an effective model::
The announcement was taken with concern by the population, as making more flexible sanitary measures against covid-19 could lead to social relaxation and a loss of perspective on the severity of the pandemic.
Countries that followed this measure months ago, such as many nations in Europe, the United States, Australia and Israel, to name a few, backed away from the complete disenfranchisement of masks. In general, countries currently mandate the use of mouthguards indoors or where a distance of 1.5m is not feasible. This is also the case in Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Hungary and Poland.
:: Find out which countries still restrict the entry of Brazilians into the pandemic ::
The epidemiological situation in Argentina makes it possible to take the same measure as developed countries for having managed to control the outbreak of the Delta variant, as explained by the health care doctor and advisor to the Ministry of Health in the province of Buenos Aires Jorge Rachid. “In the United Kingdom, the Delta variant advanced with 50,000 cases but only 41 died, with an epidemiological and vaccination profile similar to that in Argentina. Of the 41 deaths, 82% were not vaccinated, and the rest suffered from serious illnesses”, he points out.
Rachid emphasizes that the country profiles are comparable, as the United Kingdom has 66% of those vaccinated with one dose, like Argentina; and about 60% with both, while Argentina has almost 50% with both doses against covid-19.
According to Our World in Data, last Thursday (30), 45.2% of the world population was vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccines against covid-19, as it increases daily. In the case of the poorest countries index, the numbers are slower to change.
Jorge Rachid highlights that, in the coming weeks, Argentina should have completed the vaccination schedule for everyone who took at least one dose of the vaccine. But it highlights the inequality on the world stage. “We still have 1.2 billion people without a vaccine in the world, which could generate mutations in some covid-21 that make us have to rethink the strategies to fight the pandemic.
“Ten countries have immorally accumulated the vaccines, and this is wreaking havoc, as the mutations will mainly affect the unvaccinated and serious comorbidities”, adds the doctor, concluding: “The vaccine protects from intensive care and death, but not from the usual contagion .”
:: MST’s Stedile debates China’s politics and economy with researcher in Shanghai ::
United Kingdom and more cases around the world that made use of the mask more flexible
In July, the UK announced “Freedom Day”, or “Freedom Day” on the 19th, in reference to the end of restrictive measures against covid-19. The use of masks was one of them. On that day, the country registered 19 deaths from the disease, a permanent drop compared to previous weeks. Currently, the country does not require the use of masks outdoors.
Israel was an emblematic case. At one point, it stood out in terms of vaccination and eliminated restrictions in June this year. It had to backtrack after the Delta variant outbreak in July, with about 100,000 new cases a day. The mask is mandatory in closed places and the country has implemented a program to boost immunization, now with 69% of the population vaccinated.
In France, the same measures apply since June. Today, the country has 76% of the population vaccinated, with a moving average of 60 daily deaths, with a decreasing rate.
Psychoanalyst Marie Pasqale Chevance reports that flexibilization was a relief, not social relaxation. “Even with no obligation, many continue to wear masks on the street,” she says, highlighting the mental health aspect in this case. “Mental health was not taken into account in the sense that, for example, there was not a psychiatrist on the health defense committee since the beginning, a situation that changed only a few months ago”, he highlights.
In addition, Chevance highlights what most has taken the French population to the streets: the mandatory health pass. “The vaccine is mandatory and prevents entry from the cafe on the corner to care in a hospital if the person does not have the pass”, he says. “Every Saturday, there are national protests against the pass, which has been considered an affront to individual freedom,” he comments.
In Spain, restrictions were lifted on June 26 in an excited announcement by President Pedro Sánchez. In this context, the country had 47% of the population vaccinated with at least one dose and 29% completely immunized. However, the outbreak of the Delta variant forced the country to back down and, since July 9th, masks are mandatory in closed and crowded environments.
For Spanish physician Ángeles Maestro, a specialist in public health, the measure has been successful in her country. “I celebrate that more countries are allowing the use of masks outdoors,” he says. “Here in Spain, since the elimination of the mandatory outdoor mask, the descending curve of cases and mortality has remained the same.”
For Maestro, who was health spokesman at the Spanish Congress, in these profound changes in behaviors enabled after the pandemic, “it is essential to take into account the class component, scientific investigations and epidemiological data that directly affect what we believed – or , directly, we did not know – at the beginning of the pandemic.”
“Effectively, everything related to covid is very uncertain, but it is important to make the return to normality carefully, with masks in closed places, as the contagion mainly occurs in crowded public transport, workplaces where it is not distancing is possible and, mainly, in humble dwellings”, he says.
Edition: Vinícius Segalla