Title of the citizens’ initiative

Masks for all – Citizens’ initiative on the obligation to use face masks

If you are a citizen, please give your vote here:
https://www.kansalaisaloite.fi/fi/aloite/6695

Primary language of the initiative:
Finnish, Swedish

Content of the initiative

We, the undersigned, propose legislation to obligate the use of masks in indoor public areas and on public transport and to recommend[1]  their use outdoors whenever there is a widespread dangerously  infectious respiratory disease in our area. As a dangerous, highly infectious and primarily respiratory coronavirus epidemic is currently underway, we propose to start drafting the law immediately.

Reasoning

Due to the restrictive measures currently implemented by the government, the coronavirus epidemic is still under control. However, the situation can change when current restrictions are lifted. (1). An obligation to use masks in public indoor areas would protect people from  highly infectious  respiratory coronavirus and support the purpose of the Infectious Diseases Act, which is to suppress and prevent the spread of infectious diseases and the harm they cause to people and society.

The obligation to wear masks should be immediately enforced throughout the country and should remain in force until there is no longer a risk of the corona epidemic spreading, or a workable drug or vaccine has been developed. The use of masks reduces the risk of infection, promotes public health and reduces the need for medical treatment and deaths. The protection afforded by the use of masks also supports the right to life and personal freedom, integrity and security guaranteed to each of us by the Constitution.

The coronavirus is spread by droplet and aerosol infection, as well as through contact with mucous membranes. The corona virus is spread through the infected person’s breath, and infection is known to have spread in human gatherings, even though no one had displayed symptoms such as coughing (2). A person is infectious 2-3 days before the onset of symptoms. An aerosol cloud exhaled by an infected person can float indoors in the air for minutes (3). The aerosol cloud can spread during physical exertion for up to 20 meters, e.g. when cycling or jogging (4).

The risk of droplet and aerosol contamination is especially high in enclosed areas such as public transport, shops, and other indoor public areas such as waiting rooms in health centers, agencies, libraries, schools, and sports halls. In Finland, community action is largely based on the communal sharing of public spaces and means of transport. During a coronavirus epidemic, these public spaces can easily be made less infectious by imposing an obligation to wear masks. In densely populated municipal areas, people can be easily infected from the stairwell, elevator or public áreas of an apartment building, which are fundamental to urban planning and the functioning of society.

Authorities should also recommend[2]  the use of masks outdoors where there is a lot of traffic and there is often no access for adequate safety distances, such as on jogging paths, roads, streets, sidewalks, squares, parks, beaches or sports grounds. It is also a good idea to strengthen the current guidelines on hand washing, promote teleworking and distance learning, maintain safe distance guidelines, and other means of suppressing the epidemic. In addition, there should be increased access to testing and an emphasis on tracing all those infected. Other strategic means of suppression are comprehensively set out and justified in the scientists’ note on Free Corona (5).

The use of masks is one of the many proven and beneficial ways to prevent the spread of the virus, and there is strong scientific evidence and research on its benefits (6), (7), (8), (9).

Masks, commonly known as face masks, surgical masks, mouth nose protectors, cloth masks, or folk masks, do not provide 100% protection to their users from infections as do professional respirators. However, if everyone wears a mask, the risk of infection is significantly reduced because masks are proven to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. Indeed, the primary effect of the use of masks is communal: they prevent their users from infecting others and their widespread use protects us all. According to modelling, if at least 60% of the population uses face shields that are at least 60% effective, the epidemic no longer accelerates but decreases towards zero (10).

The impact of a single mask on public health is small, but the impact of large-scale use of masks is significant. The obligation to wear masks during an epidemic could be compared to the obligation to wear a seat belt when driving. A seat belt alone does not provide 100% protection against road accidents, but the benefits of using it are undeniable when in combination with other measures. Compulsory use of masks whenever you move outside your own door would prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The obligation to use masks also protects service professionals, salespeople, caregivers, cleaners, drivers and other critical employees who work in the maintenance of society and state and municipal functions. This equates to protecting about one million citizens currently at risk.

According to a VTT study (11), the use of simple cloth masks significantly reduces the spread of the virus in the population. VTT’s research professor Harlin recommends the use of masks on public transport (12). THL also states on its website that a cloth face mask can prevent a person who is carrying the virus from infecting others (13). The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has issued a decision ordering those working in close contact with clients to use masks in the 24-hour social care units and services provided at home. The aim is to protect customers who are at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of a coronavirus infection (14).

Contrary to a study by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on surgical mouth and nose pads discussed at a press conference on 29 May 2020, significant international scientific research shows that the widespread use of masks undeniably reduces infections (15). The obligation to use face masks on Finnair flights is already in force (16).

The use of face masks on public transport and in shops is already mandatory in several countries, such as Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Greece. In Spain, the use of masks in all public outdoor and indoor areas is mandatory under penalty of a fine. Other examples include large cities, like New York in the United States, which have introduced the obligation to wear masks whenever moving outside the home (17).

Since the effectiveness of masks is based on their widespread use, it is important that their use is an obligatory requirement rather than simply a recommendation. A nation that respects the authorities will not take voluntary action unless instructed to do so. The effectiveness of mask use to decrease the overall risk of infection is based on volume and the imposition of a formal obligation is a prerequisite.

The obligation to wear masks should not apply to children under three years of age, children with breathing difficulties or other illnesses. Lighter and easier-to-breathe nose and mouth guards and instructions for lighter protection can also be distributed to those with breathing difficulties.

Children under school age who may not be able to use masks properly should also be exempted from the obligation to use masks. There should also be no obligation to wear a mask when eating or drinking. In some places and situations, the obligation to wear a mask can also be changed to a recommendation only.

By imposing the obligation to use masks on all public indoor areas and means of transpor in Finland, we can protect each other and reduce the number of infections cheaply, while maintaining access to basic services and communal facilities on an equal basis.

There is no need for a separate regulation on the effectiveness or material of the masks. It is sufficient that the airway is required to be covered with any shield, in which case, most of the infectious droplets will stop in the shield. However, the guidelines should be comprehensive and reach all Finns so that those living and working in the area know how to make or acquire the most effective and appropriate masks for themselves. Information on the correct useage and best mask features needs to be clear and instruction on the use of masks should be found on THL’s or STM’s own websites.

A detailed technical report in Finnish on the use of face masks in the Community, as well as the rationale and evidence for the use of face masks, can be found on the ECDC website (18). Ready-made instructions can already be found on Marttaliitto’s website on both the manufacture of masks and their use (19). The police can monitor the implementation of the decree in practice with the powers provided by law, and if necessary, impose a fine for violating the decree.

We propose that the authorities and politicians oblige all those moving in Finland to protect themselves and protect each other with a nose-shield in public interiors and vehicles, and to recommend their use also outdoors by immediately starting to draft legislation in the above-mentioned areas.

Other applicable laws for the introduction of the obligation to use masks and the recommendation in the preparation of legislation may be the following:

Infectious Diseases Act Section 1
The purpose of the Act is to prevent communicable diseases and their spread, as well as the harm they cause to people and society. 

Order Act Section 1
The purpose of the Act is to promote public order and security.

The Constitution Chapter 2 Section 7
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Constitution, Chapter 2, Section 19
Public authorities must, in accordance with the provisions of the law, ensure adequate social and health services for everyone and promote the health of the population.

Health Care Act Chapter 1 Section 2
The purpose of the Act is:
1) to promote and maintain the health, well-being, work and functional capacity and social security of the population health.

Care Act Chapter 1 Section 3
For the purposes of this Act:
1) Health promotion means activities aimed at individuals, the population, communities and the living environment, maintaining and improving functional capacity and influencing health determinants, preventing illnesses, accidents and other health problems and strengthening mental health, reducing health inequalities between population groups and systematic allocation of resources in a health-promoting manner

Health Care Act Chapter 1 Section 10
The association of municipalities of the municipality and hospital district shall organize health care services in terms of content and scope such as the well-being, patient safety, social security and state of health of the residents of the municipality or hospital district and medical, dental or health care based on the monitoring of factors affecting them. The consortium of municipalities and the hospital district must ensure that the services of the residents under their responsibility are organized and available equally throughout their territory. An association of municipalities of a municipality or hospital district shall organize health care services in its territory close to the residents, unless the regional centralization of services is justified in order to ensure the quality of services.

Contingency Act Chapter 1 Section 1
The purpose of this Act is to protect the population in exceptional circumstances and to safeguard its livelihood and the economic life of the country, to uphold the rule of law, fundamental and human rights, and to safeguard the territorial integrity and independence of the kingdom.

Contingency Act Chapter 1 Section 3
Exceptional circumstances according to this Act are: 5) a very widespread dangerous infectious disease with a particularly serious major effect.

Chapter 1 Section 1 of the Health Protection Act
The purpose of this Act is to maintain and promote the health of the population and the individual and to prevent, reduce and eliminate factors in the living environment that may cause harm to health (health protection). For the purposes of this Act, a health impairment is a disease, other health disorder or the presence of a factor or condition that may reduce the health of the living environment of a population or individual.

Chapter 1 Section 2 of the Health Protection Act
Activities affecting the habitat must be planned and organized in such a way as to maintain and promote the health of the population and the individual. The operator who affects the habitat must identify the risks that cause harm to the health of his activities and monitor the factors that affect them (self-monitoring). Activities must be carried out in such a way as to prevent, as far as possible, adverse health effects.

Criminal Code Chapter 34 Section 4
Endangering health
2) Any spreading of a serious illness in such a way that the act is likely to cause a general danger to life or health shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than four months and not more than four years for endangering health. The company must be punished.

Chapter 34, Section 5 of the Penal Code
If the endangerment of health is committed with a serious danger to life or health of a large number of people and the crime is also aggravated as a whole, the offender must be sentenced to serious harm to health for a minimum of two and a maximum of ten years. The company must be punished.

UN Declaration of Human Rights Article
1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience, and they are to act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.
Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

References
(1) National Institute for Health and Welfare: Coronavirus Situation Report
(2) Medical journal: Aerosol-mediated SARS-CoV-2 infection – an underestimated danger
(3) Aalto University: Researchers who have modeled the spread of the corona with a supercomputer: The most important thing now is to avoid a busy interior
(4) Jurgen Thoelen: Belgian-Dutch Study: Why in times of COVID-19 you should not walk / run / bike close behind each other.
(5) Myllärniemi, M. & Free from the Corona Working Group (2020). Free of corona.
(6) Thomas Brand: The Requirement to Use Masks in Public Transportation and Border Control to Control the Current COVID-19 Pandemic in New Zealand
(7) Howard et al., Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review
(8) Abaluck, Chevalier: The Case for Universal Cloth Mask Adoption and Policies to Increase Supply of Medical Masks for Health Workers
(9) Cloth Masks May Prevent Transmission of COVID-19: An Evidence-Based, Risk-Based Approach
(10) Tomas Puyeo: Coronavirus: The Basic Dance Steps Everybody Can Follow
(11) VTT: Do Cloth Masks Protect Against Coronavirus ?
(12) Ilta-Sanomat: VTT expert: The use of masks in commuting is justified – “The virus must be tricked so that it cannot enter the body”
(13) National Institute for Health and Welfare: Use of face masks during a coronavirus pandemic
(14) Ministry of Social Affairs and Health: STM issues regulation on the use of guards in social care services
(15) Professor Trisha Greenhalgh OBE and Jeremy Howard, Thomas Brand: Everyone should wear a mask – a summary of scientific research
(16) Yle News: Passengers to wear face masks on Finnair flights from next week
(17) The New York Times: New York Orders Residents to Wear Masks in Public
(18) European Infectious Diseases Agency ECDC: Use of
masks in the Community (19) user

guide Network sources retrieved 29.5.2020.

Financial support for the initiative

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