In the midst of global COVID-19 pandemic, going out to public places without wearing a face mask is considered an offense in many countries and cities.
In mid-August, Italy made wearing of masks from 6pm until 6am mandatory in all spaces open to the public where maintaining social distance is impossible. Two weeks ago, police handed out the first penalty for breaches of the rule, fining a 29-year-old maskless man who argued that “COVID-19 doesn not exist.”
But the mayor of one Italian town says fines should be slapped on those wearing a mask in an “inappropriate” situation.
In the same way global health authorities insist masks contain the spread of coronavirus, Vittorio Sgarbi, the mayor of Sutri, is confident his unorthodox initiative will help stem the spread of “pandemic-related hysteria,” as he put it.
The lingering COVID-19 pandemic has so far infected close to 275,000 people in Italy and killed more than 35,500 – almost seven times the entire population of Sutri. Yet, for Sgarbi, mandatory mask-wearing should have its limits, particularly when public safety is at stake.
Sgarbi, who is also a renowned art historian, cultural commentator, and television personality, said he had issued a decree – yet to be approved by the Italian government – calling for imposition of a fine for wearing a mask in a situation when it’s not needed.
“My decree has been issued under the current terrorism prevention laws,” Sgarbi said. The legislation in question says people shouldn’t have their faces covered in a public place. Breaching this law can result in a one or two-year prison sentence or a fine of up to €2,000 (around $2,365).
Sgarbi made it clear that anyone breaking his ban wouldn’t incur such a harsh penalty, but that people should wear a mask only when the occasion requires. “Wearing a mask at dinner is absurd,” he clarified.
The mayor is no stranger to going against the mainstream. Ahead of the pandemic, he reportedly dismissed COVID-19 as “a flu” and ridiculed those raising concerns about the looming crisis. He later made a formal apology when the death toll surged.