The Corner


Spain’s Controversial Mask Mandate

The resistance to mask-wearing is not only an American phenomenon. This past weekend, hundreds took to the streets of Madrid to oppose the Spanish government’s national mask mandate.

In addition to requiring face coverings, Spain has also banned smoking in outdoor public spaces where people are unable to maintain a six-foot distance after research indicated that smokers might be spreading the virus more easily through droplets as they exhale. But there was more to this decision, as the Spanish health minister explained: “Current evidence indicates that smoking is associated with. . . a higher risk of developing a severe form of symptoms.” You don’t say! Of course, current evidence also indicates that smokers are at higher risk of cancer and lung disease, but provided people are informed of these risks (and non-smokers have sufficient protection from passive smoke in public), isn’t it better to leave them alone?

In the context of a pandemic, mandatory mask-wearing — with exemptions for those who need them — is a relatively unintrusive measure which is, if used on a temporary basis, proportionate to the crisis at hand. Nevertheless, it is reassuring to see that governments who use this policy as a pretext to encroach on other freedoms are being met with opposition.