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Mandating people to wear masks in public violates human rights.

The requirement to mandate a covering has a clear rational basis based on the protection of public health and does not violate human rights.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous countries worldwide have made it compulsory to wear masks in an indoor setting. On the other hand, US President Donald Trump has refrained from federally mandating face masks. Many people have also gone to the extent of saying that mandating masks violates their human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provides that everyone has “the right to life, liberty, and security of persons”. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that “everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.” Inherent to these rights in the idea of bodily autonomy, meaning that every individual should have the final authority in decisions relating to their body. Therefore, at first glance, there is a legal basis from which to derive a right not to wear a mask.

There are, however, significant exceptions to these rights. The first of these is that governments can legitimately restrict rights under some circumstances. Under the ECHR, lawful interference occurs when rights are restricted in the events of “national security, public safety… the economic wellbeing of the country… protection of health… [and] the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

Wendy Parmet, the director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University, states that nobody possesses the right to do something that could injure their neighbors' health. This means that in the name of "the right to bodily autonomy," one does not have the right to infringe on others' health and safety. Face masks are primarily designed to protect others. When someone who is infected talks, coughs, or sneezes, they release respiratory droplets, which can infect others with the virus. Wearing a mask traps these droplets before the virus can be transmitted.

Public health organizations worldwide recommended wearing a mask, especially in situations where it is impossible to maintain a 2-meter physical distance from others. It does not violate human rights as it provides safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.

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