Mask Mandates by Nation: Most Still Await a Breath of Fresh Air

The Biden administration’s decision to ease its recommendation on wearing masks is a sign of U.S. success in fighting Covid-19 and a key step to getting the world’s largest economy back to normal. Around the world, mask mandates reflect the reality of the virus on the ground -- with some places still seeing significant risks from the pandemic -- as well as political realities facing leaders of individual nations.

The following is a list of some countries’ current policies, led by the 15 largest based on gross domestic product in Bloomberg’s Global Economy Watch. Some places rely on individual states or provinces to set their own rules based on government recommendations, as happens in the U.S. with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

15 LARGEST ECONOMIES:

U.S.: Vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except in trains, planes, public transit, medical settings, prisons and some other specific settings, based on the CDC recommendations released Thursday. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people are still recommended to wear masks and practice social distancing indoors, and when in close contact with others outdoors. Despite the new CDC guidelines, the health minister of Puerto Rico is asking the U.S. territory’s residents to continue wearing masks.

Mask Mandates by Nation: Most Still Await a Breath of Fresh Air

CHINA: With the virus largely under control, the country has gradually loosened restrictions on mask-wearing. Although masking up was once required at all public venues, authorities now say people don’t need to do so while outdoors, at public gatherings or when they’re in places that have good air circulation. Still, people are subjected to mandatory mask-wearing rules nationwide at hospitals and transport hubs. Residents are advised to bring masks to densely populated places like shopping malls, office buildings and restaurants, to be worn if they come within one meter of others. And some lower-tier cities, notably those that have reported Covid flare-ups, are enforcing rules like checking masks at entrances of malls and restaurants.

JAPAN: While there’s no legal national mask requirement, the government recommends having one on in public in Japan, where the pace of vaccinations lags behind other global financial hubs just months before the delayed Tokyo Olympics. People typically follow the government’s recommendation on mask usage, and many businesses have made it a requirement for customers. Face coverings were common in Japan even before the pandemic, with people using them to protect against the flu and allergies. A recent outlier to the lack of a mandate is the city of Osaka, where restaurants may be subject to fines if they don’t enforce mask requirements, after stricter virus restrictions came into effect amid a spike in cases last month.

GERMANY: Europe’s largest economy tightened its rules in January, ruling out cloth face coverings and requiring medical masks in shops, hairdressers and offices. Masks that filter particles are required in many indoor locations such as public transport, and fines can be levied for failing to adhere to the rules. Masks are required outdoors where people congregate, but as long as social-distancing can be maintained people can go mask-free.

Mask Mandates by Nation: Most Still Await a Breath of Fresh Air

INDIA: Almost all states in India have made mask-wearing mandatory, with several imposing fines for rule-breakers. The federal government’s Covid-19 taskforce tightened its guidance late in April and recommended that Indians even wear masks at home, as a variant of the coronavirus started infecting entire families and has made the world’s largest democracy the epicenter of the pandemic.

U.K.: Masks are mandatory for most shared indoor spaces, including public transport, shopping centers and supermarkets. Fines can be issued for anyone unwilling to comply, with penalties doubling for each repeat offense. Face coverings can be removed for activities such as exercise, eating and drinking and do not apply to young children.

FRANCE: Wearing masks is mandatory in public areas, including many city centers, as well as in offices, public transport, taxis and shops. The rule applies even to those who are fully vaccinated. There’s a potential fine of 135 euros ($163) for failure to comply. The French authorities recommend indoor mask-wearing in private residences when in the presence of people from outside the household.

ITALY: Mask wearing is compulsory in Italy, both indoors and outdoors, though calls are growing for the latter requirement to be dropped as vaccinations pick up. Compliance is high, and it’s rare to see someone walking around in Rome or Milan without a mask -- though often it’s half pulled down to free up the nose if there’s no one around.

BRAZIL: There is no national mandate in Latin America’s largest economy. Rules vary from city to city and state to state, and are rarely enforced. For the first time since the crisis began, the federal government this week kicked off a national publicity campaign saying mask wearing is important. President Jair Bolsonaro is often seen maskless and in crowds.

Mask Mandates by Nation: Most Still Await a Breath of Fresh Air

CANADA: Health Canada’s guidance is to wear a mask when in any “shared space (indoors or outdoors) with people from outside of your immediate household.” Ontario requires a face covering in public spaces such as stores and hotels; vehicles used for business, including taxis and ride shares; and even in workplaces that aren’t open to the public. British Columbia has similar rules for people 12 and over but makes allowances for going without masks in some work environments.

RUSSIA: Rules are set by regional governments and vary widely across the country. President Vladimir Putin is regularly shown without a mask, as are many other top officials. In Moscow, masks and gloves are required on public transport and stores, but enforcement has been spotty. As case loads have picked up a bit in recent weeks, state media have reported police conducting spot checks in the subway, issuing fines to offenders. Aeroflot, the state airline, requires passengers to wear face coverings.

SOUTH KOREA: The country has mandated wearing masks at nearly all times, regardless of vaccination status, since early last year. Exceptions are only made when eating, drinking and engaging in hygiene-related activities as well as when outdoors with no one close by. Virtually everyone adheres to the requirement, as mask-wearing was already common in South Korea even before Covid when people were sick or air quality was poor. South Koreans take the mandate seriously: If a person is spotted without one, they’re often accosted by strangers.

AUSTRALIA: Except in airports and on planes, mask-wearing is not mandatory in public settings in most of Australia. Exceptions are made in regions where localized cases have emerged from the nation’s hotel-quarantine system for inbound travelers -- currently including Sydney and Perth, though both are due to remove compulsory mask-wearing orders within days. Mask rules are the jurisdiction of Australia’s individual states and territories.

Mask Mandates by Nation: Most Still Await a Breath of Fresh Air

SPAIN: In one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, the use of masks is mandatory for everyone older than six, both outdoors and indoors, subject to some exceptions.

MEXICO: The government recommends wearing masks indoors, especially when a person can’t keep a 1.5-meter (5 foot) distance from others, or when there are many people congregated outdoors. Mexico has required masks at workplaces but there’s little enforcement.

OTHER NATIONS AND REGIONS:

ARGENTINA: Masks are required indoors and outdoors. People are allowed to take their masks off outdoors only if they’re eating.

CHILE: The government is asking people to use masks in public spaces, regardless of their vaccination status and whether indoors or outside.

COLOMBIA: The rules are left to states. In the capital, Bogota, people have to wear a mask outside their home regardless of their vaccination status.

COSTA RICA: There’s a central government mask mandate in all indoor settings outside the home; masks are not required outdoors.

EL SALVADOR: The government mandates masks everywhere outside the home, indoors and outdoors.

GUATEMALA: There’s a central government mask mandate everywhere outside the home, indoors and outdoors.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has been enforcing a strict mask requirement for public places -- save for the city’s country parks and people exercising outdoors -- for nearly a year. Residents need to wear a mask in shopping malls, supermarkets and building lobbies or risk a potential HK$5,000 ($644) fine.

INDONESIA: It’s mandatory for people to wear masks when leaving home, with each province implementing its own set of regulations and fines for offenders. In the capital, Jakarta, masks are mandatory -- including in private cars -- and offenders face between 250,000 rupiah ($18) to 1 million rupiah in fines if caught violating the rule.

MALAYSIA: Wearing face masks has been mandatory in public places in Malaysia since last August. The country in March raised fines for Covid-19 violations, including not wearing masks, to between 1,500 ringgit and 10,000 ringgit ($2,400). Repeat offenders can be slapped with heftier fines.

NEW ZEALAND: People are legally obligated to wear face coverings on public transport and domestic flights. Taxi and ride-share drivers must wear them, but it is not compulsory for their passengers. There is no obligation to wear masks anywhere else, with the country all but eliminating the virus, but the government still encourages them to be worn in crowded indoor places.

NICARAGUA: While there’s no government mask mandate, many private businesses require them to enter.

PANAMA: Central government mask mandate everywhere outside the home, indoors and outdoors.

PERU: Double up if you’re visiting this nation, where the government requires two masks to be worn in supermarkets, markets, malls and pharmacies. A shield mask is recommended in closed spaces, but in practice malls and supermarkets force customers to use that secondary level of protection. A single mask is mandatory while out on the streets.

PHILIPPINES: The government in April mandated the wearing of masks when people leave their homes. Individuals caught not properly wearing a mask or face shield will be apprehended, President Rodrigo Duterte said in an address earlier this month. The Southeast Asian nation has some 1.1 million cases out of a population of 109 million, the second worst outbreak in the region.

SINGAPORE: It’s mandatory for everyone six years old and over to wear masks when leaving their homes in the Southeast Asian finance hub, which is battling an uptick in Covid-19 cases after months of success in containing the pandemic. Those who do not comply face a first-time fine of S$300 ($225) -- and repeat offenders face higher financial penalties or even prosecution in court. The few exceptions to the mandate include strenuous exercise, like running or jogging, and masks must be worn again once the activity is over.

SOUTH AFRICA: The government has made mask-wearing compulsory everywhere outside the home, with a few exceptions such as when eating or drinking and during strenuous exercise. Compliance is patchy and rarely legally enforced, though there have been reports of arrests during surges in Covid cases.

TAIWAN: Masks are required in eight types of venues where large numbers of people congregate and social distancing is difficult, such as shopping malls, public transport, healthcare facilities and places of worship. Those who refuse to put on a mask after being asked to do so can be fined up to NT$15,000 ($535).

THAILAND: The country has enforced a nationwide mask mandate in all public areas from May 1 to contain its worst outbreak to date, after its relative success in containing Covid for much of last year. Although the majority of Thais observe the rule, officials want to impose fines on those who don’t in an effort to achieve 100% adoption. The mask mandate applies to everyone from news anchors in broadcast studios to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who was fined 6,000 baht ($191) for not wearing a mask during a meeting at the Government House.

VIETNAM: Vietnam mandates people wear masks in public nationwide or risk fines of as much as 3 million dong ($130). There are no exceptions for those who have been vaccinated.

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