From Canadian truckers to European protests, the world is fed up with COVID crackdowns

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If hypocrisy were a panacea, the coronavirus would have been banished from earth long ago. Politicians and government officials have brazenly violated the COVID-19 edicts they impose on everyone else. But after two years of prohibitions designed to placate fears rather than protect public health, can oppressed citizens around the globe compel their rulers to end absurd restrictions vexing their daily lives?

At the 49ers-Rams game on Jan. 30, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and San Francisco Mayor London Breed were photographed sporting ear-to-ear smiles. It was easy to detect their grins because they were scofflaws – not wearing masks. Newsom imposed a statewide mask mandate for indoor events, and Los Angeles County dictated that masks must be worn for any “outdoor mega events” with more than 5,000 attendees.

After controversy erupted, Garcetti claimed he wasn't breathing, and Newsom defended himself by claiming that he had his mask in his left hand when the photo was taken. The governor neglected to cite any scientific studies on how left-handed masks deter COVID-19 transmission.

Hypocritical and absurd restrictions

Newsom and Garcetti have been two of the most heavy-handed pandemic enforcers in the nation. Newsom dictated that all schoolchildren must wear masks despite the minimal or nonexistent evidence that masks protect kids from COVID transmission. And in L.A. County, students have to mask up even outside under some circumstances.

Newsom survived a recall election last year that was sparked in part by photos of him dining maskless with his political donors at an elite restaurant in Napa Valley.

I am done with masks. We've been idiotic about them since the beginning.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a face mask during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif., in February 2022.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a face mask during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif., in February 2022.

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he decreed that masks must be worn any time people were on federal property. A few hours after signing the order, Biden went maskless at the Lincoln Memorial.

Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki justified the breach: “He was celebrating ... a historic day in our country. … We have bigger issues to worry about.”

When I hiked in national parks in the following weeks, people screamed at me for not wearing a mask. I should have told them that I was merely acting presidential.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be toppled from power because of parties at his residence that brazenly violated the COVID-19 restrictions he imposed on his fellow citizens. Before Johnson’s bashes, Britain inflicted some of the most absurd COVID-19 mandates in the world, including prohibiting couples who live in different homes from having sex indoors.

One of Johnson's top scientific advisers, Neil Ferguson, was forced to resign in 2020 after being caught violating lockdown edicts with extramarital trysts, and Johnson's health secretary resigned last year after video showed him violating social distancing guidelines by passionately kissing an aide (both had other spouses).

More from James Bovard: Who screwed up COVID-19 testing? Blame Trump, Biden and our health care bureaucracy.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Nov. 27, 2021, speaking about COVID-19 variant omicron.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Nov. 27, 2021, speaking about COVID-19 variant omicron.

Even without the taint of neon-bright hypocrisy, heavy-handed government policies are evoking pushback around the world. A 40-plus-mile convoy of truckers recently arrived in Ottawa to protest Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vaccine mandate and other pandemic policies. Massive protests have also rocked Austria, Croatia, France, Italy and other European nations, while Australians have battled police over that nation’s penal-colony-style COVID straitjackets.

People are reclaiming their freedoms

Many people who initially tolerated sweeping prohibitions have lost faith that unlimited submission will magically produce total safety. As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide approaches 400 million and the number of deaths approaches 6 million, reciting the phrase “science and data” is no longer sufficient to sanctify any command from any government official.

While the pandemic drags into another year, citizens around the world are recognizing that temporary decrees could permanently decimate their freedom. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito warned, “The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” Freedom House warned that since the pandemic began, “the condition of democracy and human rights has worsened in 80 countries” and “official responses to COVID-19 have laid the groundwork for government excesses that could affect democracy for years to come.”

COVID and the World Health Organization: COVID-19 has shown sustainable financing of WHO is needed to deliver health for all

After lockdowns, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports failed to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is time for other nations to “go Danish.” Even though Denmark now has the second highest infection rate in the world, Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced, "We say goodbye to the restrictions and welcome the life we knew before. As of Feb. 1, Denmark will be open." The Danish government tacitly admitted the failure of pandemic restrictions and canceled the indoor mask mandate, COVID passport requirements and most other restrictions.

Denmark is not alone: Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced Tuesday that his nation would drop almost all COVID restrictions. Last month, Ireland announced the end of most COVID restrictions, and the Irish are looking forward to heartily celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

James Bovard in Washington, D.C., in May 2016.
James Bovard in Washington, D.C., in May 2016.

Will citizens elsewhere tolerate living in Cage Keeper Democracies where their votes merely designate who will place them under house arrest? Biden, who promised in his inaugural address to "overcome this deadly virus," now admits that there is “no federal solution” to COVID-19.

With growing recognition that government decrees won’t make a virus vanish, it is time for politicians to cease pointlessly destroying people’s freedom.

James Bovard, author of "Attention Deficit Democracy," is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @JimBovard

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canadian truckers right to protest excessive COVID-19 crackdowns