Postcard From Southern Europe, Where Mask Wearing is Almost Universal

A Daily Sceptic reader has just returned from a trip to Spain and Italy and has sent us this guest post. Depressing reading.

One of the lovelier benefits to travel is the perspective it lends to life at home. Usually, this revolves around how the British sky and food is more dull than we realise, but after two recent trips to Spain and Italy one would be forgiven for thinking that Blighty is a post-Covid, liberal, free-thinking nirvana.

Both countries in question reported big Covid numbers – broadly in line with ours. Now both have similar vaccination levels and both are reporting broadly similar case daily numbers too. Their supine adoption of the ‘passport’ has been relatively well documented but but to walk the streets or beaches in either is to see a population cowed by face mask legislation. Masks are obligatory more or less everywhere indoors but it is the manner of their adoption which makes it all the more depressing.

Two nationalities (which one might playfully suggest are known for their selective application of some rules) have taken to the wearing of masks with quiet supplication. When viewed with the rapid dropping of masks we are enjoying at home this makes for a most depressing spectacle.

The farcical insistence that a face mask is worn when walking from a beach bed to a bar is barely credible yet the adherence is almost total. Equally, to see a solitary, masked parking attendant standing in a country lane is absurd as it is worrying.

The beautiful and ancient Fallas of Valancia this year were reconvened after the pandemic, but despite taking place in deserted streets the participants were still required to wear masks alongside their fabulous costumes.

Of course, there is the human element, our children grumbled at wearing a mask – it was uncomfortable, new for them and scary – and were barely challenged when they did not. But the fact remains that every other child was happily going about with a mini-mask strapped to their face.

One wonders if this can be traced back to their lockdowns. Neither country closed schools to any great extent but children were required to wear masks at school. Equally, neither had such a wholesale adoption of home-working as here and while offices opened earlier than in the U.K., many people wore masks at their desks and were often banned from using meeting rooms, asked instead to use virtual conferencing with their colleagues a few yards away.

I cannot comment on the mask hesitancy or counter-arguments that have been made – of which I am sure there have been many, but writing this in a charming pizzeria in Milan I note that I was reminded to wear my mask by two people upon arrival and had my temperature taken to walk the 10 paces from the door to the terrace – whereupon my mask is not required.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny.

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