The mask debate still rages in the United States, but much of the world has evolved

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Public health experts have spent months emphasizing that masks are one of the most effective tools to help fight the pandemic, and many US states have now introduced some sort of mask requirement. Still, Trump refused to introduce a national mandate, saying he wanted people to have “some freedom.”

But in many other countries, that discussion has long been over and masked warrants are becoming the norm.

Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was initially reluctant to impose such rules, made face covering mandatory on public transport in England from mid-June. Britons will have to pay fines of up to £ 100 ($ 125) if they do not wear masks in shops from Friday.

France made masks mandatory in all closed public spaces on Monday, extending the mandate of cinemas and museums to include stores, banks and malls. Police can impose fines of € 135 ($ 155) on those who break the rules. Masks have been compulsory in the Paris metro since May.

Other countries made masks mandatory months ago.

In the Czech Republic, masks became mandatory for everyone outside the home from midnight on March 19, with exemptions put in place later for children under two and people driving alone. German states introduced fines of between 15 and 5,000 euros for failing to wear a mask in April. In May, Spain made the face covering mandatory in indoor and outdoor public spaces where a minimum distance of two meters cannot be guaranteed.

Countries like Scotland, Italy and Greece have also made it mandatory to wear face masks in retail stores, while countries like Cuba, Pakistan and Iran have made them mandatory in very public spaces. frequented.

And that’s old news in much of Asia, where mask wear has been widely accepted since the region was hit hard by the 2003 outbreak of SARS – another respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus.

Experts wrote in the journal Science in May that the world should take airborne transmission of the virus seriously, pointing to places where masks are universal and the virus is largely controlled, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The Hong Kong government, like many others in Asia, recommended face masks early on in the pandemic. Last week, he announced that masks would be made mandatory on public transport after recording a spike in infections. Most Hong Kong citizens have regularly worn masks in public since the outbreak.

Pupils wearing cloth masks listen to their teacher at a school in Beaucamps-Ligny, near Lille, France.  Masks are now mandatory in all confined spaces.

Dr Padmini Murthy, professor and director of global health at New York Medical College, told a United Nations panel on July 8 that “wearing a mask, ladies and gentlemen, is respect.”

She highlighted places like South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand, which practiced wearing masks, social distancing and contact tracing at the start of the pandemic, and which now have less than six deaths in every 1 million people.

Yet masks remain a divisive issue in the United States. Arkansas joined at least 39 states on Tuesday that now have some sort of mask requirement, but states like Florida and Arizona are leaving it to local authorities. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for the city mask term.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease specialist, urged governors and mayors to be “as forceful as possible” to get people to wear them.

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In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said it was “weird that we have turned … mask-wearing into something political.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that science shows face masks protect both the wearer and others from Covid-19, and advised everyone to wear one in public.

Even cloth masks help, three senior CDC officials said in a comment in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“While community use of face masks has increased dramatically, especially in jurisdictions with mandatory prescriptions, resistance continues,” said CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield, CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr John Brooks and Deputy Director of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Jay Butler. a joint editorial.

There is “a lot of evidence” that people who have no symptoms and who do not realize they are infected can be the cause of the continued spike in infections, they wrote. “At this critical juncture where Covid-19 is reborn, the widespread adoption of fabric face covers is a civic duty.

The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidelines on wearing face masks on June 5, advising countries to encourage the public to wear cloth headgear in public where the coronavirus is spreading .

Leadership buy-in is important. Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, told CNN last week that residents of countries like Italy and Spain, without a history of wearing masks, had “quickly adopted masks during the Covid-19 period. in large part because authorities have provided them with a consistent policy and clear guidelines as to why they should wear them. ”

Masks are viewed globally as a key tool to help contain the coronavirus. The question is whether Trump will ever make them mandatory in the United States.

CNN’s Maggie Fox, Rob Picheta, Pierre Bairin, James Griffiths, Nakia McNabb and Sarah Dean contributed reporting.

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