Growing numbers of Europeans are dismissing the threat of the coronavirus as media hype and sometimes embracing conspiracy theories, as the virus takes a second spin around the continent.
In London on Saturday, thousands of unmasked protesters packed Trafalgar Square in the center of the city, calling the virus a hoax.
“Take off your mask” was freshly scrawled across an already-graffitied door alongside a strip of houses on London’s Portobello Road.
In Berlin, Brussels, Dublin and Paris, similar gatherings have gone ahead in recent weeks as coronavirus cases are again rising across much of Europe. But with health experts warning that a second wave has already arrived in some places and with many governments moving to reintroduce restrictions, the ranks of those dismissing the dangers of the virus and others calling it a government-led hoax have swelled.
Science has long shown that wearing a mask can prevent a person from spreading airborne illness, and new research suggests that it also protects the person wearing it. But protesters remain unconvinced.
In France, where infections have skyrocketed with a daily average of 12,000 new cases reported over the past week, critics have questioned the effectiveness of masks and new measures to control the spread, while others have urged people to ignore the government’s guidance entirely.
In Germany, there has been a growing and vocal number of German QAnon supporters, who contend that powerful players behind the scenes are using the virus to control the masses.
And in Slovakia, which on Friday recorded its highest number of new daily cases for a third day in a row, the country’s Ministry of Health this summer appointed a specialist to fight disinformation about the pandemic.