"People are not afraid of a second wave because we never had a first one."
Vladislav Sobolev is a co-founder of Hugs Over Masks, a group that feels face masks and coverings are not helping to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. In fact, he claims they might actually be increasing the number of cases. This comes in the wake of backlash over the group's recent protests.
On Aug. 28, Sobolev attended the Ottawa Freedom Rally, held on Parliament Hill, to discuss the Canadian government's most recent policies during the pandemic, as well as some that may come in the future, like mandatory vaccinations. He was accompanied by other "anti-mask" speakers, including The Line Canada's Kelly Anne Wolfe and Lamont Daigle.
Not only does Sobolev feel the government's actions are misguided, but he also believes that some of Canada's top medical advisors should be held "criminally responsible" for implementing rules that have catastrophic repercussions.
"The opioid crisis has killed far more people than COVID, and there have been more suicides. Isolation is deadly," he laments. "We're fighting for everyone who doesn't have a voice."
Sobolev does not explain, however, how COVID-19, a virus, can be directly compared to the overdose crisis.
In addition to creating loneliness, Sobolev says that what is happening in Canada is similar to the uprising of Nazi Germany, as well as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. He asks, "Why is there such an isolation between elderly and the young right now under the pretence of COVlD and safety?
"It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with people not being able to pass on the knowledge. So the older generation cannot pass on knowledge to the children and tell them what's happening right now...you should be very alarmed and afraid."
The Government of Canada has repeatedly stated that older adults and people with underlying conditions - such as heart disease, hypertension, lung disease, diabetes and cancer - are most at risk for developing severe complications from the illness. As a result, health officials implemented lock down measures to protect older people in long-term care facilities from falling ill.
While his group, Hugs Over Masks, share a number of common beliefs, such as the anti-mask sentiment, Sobolev underscores that they not a political movement. Instead, he says that, "this is a spiritual war above all" and that they are, "fighting for humanity." He adds that they also believe in peace, love, and positivity.
"There's a huge awakening happening right now. People are ready to fight for their freedom," he says.
Sobolev also asks how the homeless population in Vancouver hasn't been hit by the virus when there is, "no sanitation, no social distancing and no masking."
On Aug. 24, Hugs Over Masks gathered outside of Metrotown SkyTrain Station to protest TransLink's new mandatory mask policy.
Many of the signs read phrases like "Love over fear" and "Freedom is essential," and nearly all of the demonstrators wore white T-shirts that had an image of a face mask with a red slash across it.
Sobolev has also shared a video of when he was asked to leave a Shoppers Drug Mart post office for refusing to wear a face mask. In his caption, he writes that, "Discrimination is real. Sad sad sad world."
“Transit is an important service for many British Columbians. TransLink’s decision to make masks mandatory on their vehicles will help make transit safer for passengers, and we can make it safer for our fellow passengers when we wear a mask,” said provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Find one that's comfortable and make time to get used to wearing them and taking them on and off as needed. Those of us who are able should be using masks on transit all the time. I do and I expect others to as well.”
The Canadian Centre for Disease Control states that, "Wearing a homemade non-medical mask/facial covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings."