Monkeypox 21 Day Quarantine Backlash Spreads Before Mandates Even Begin

Monkeypox: It's the disease that has dominated headlines since the first cases emerged in the U.K. at the start of May. Now in 19 countries outside Africa, the outbreak has led to wild conspiracy theories and angry rhetoric stemming from the COVID pandemic and the mandates that were introduced to curb its spread.

Belgium and Germany have already announced 21-day quarantine guidelines to stem the spread of monkeypox. Belgium was the first country to do say, with health authorities introducing a compulsory 21-day quarantine for monkeypox patients on May 20. Germany's rules were less strict, asking people who contract the virus to self-isolate for 21 days.

On Monday, President Joe Biden said it was unlikely that U.S. quarantines would be necessary. "I just don't think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it," The Washington Post quoted him as saying.

Despite this, the idea of quarantines have led to many to declare they will not be following strict measures, as became mandated during COVID. This included Candace Owens, who mocked the idea of getting a monkeypox vaccine, and popular podcaster Eric Matheny, tweeting his refusal to comply with any other lockdowns.

"I don't care if it's a COVID variant, monkeypox, or it starts raining fire," he wrote. "Never give in, never lockdown, quarantine, or close your business ever again."

Many twitter users expressed similar opinions to Owens and Matheny. One user with the handle @RightOfEast wrote: "I know it's early but, I'm not taking a monkey pox vaccine either." Her comment was retweeted about 3,500 times and liked by almost 20,000.

According to Dr. Nicole F. Roberts, Founder of Health & Human Rights Strategies in Washington, D.C., COVID-19 protocols and mandates divided people in predictable, but often harmful ways, which may impact their feelings and behaviors towards new disease outbreaks.

"Instead of accepting that as we gain more knowledge about an unknown disease or virus best practices will naturally evolve, many took shifts in policy or recommendations as proof of being wrong," she told Newsweek.

"It's also important to note that communication strategies were very ineffective throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, often using language that pushed people to the edges and resulted in doubling-down on their biases. As such, those who trust and don't trust the government became more resolute in their existing beliefs."

Monkeypox iStock / Getty Images

Thomas Britt, Professor of Psychology at Clemson University, told Newsweek: "We live in a polarized nation where many individuals are opposed to government interventions and believe these mandates threaten their individual freedoms and liberties. It's likely that these people's experiences with government mandates have only strengthened these initial beliefs, which should serve to increase the psychological reactance experienced if these mandates are proposed in the future.

"They could also indirectly reduce the negative state by reaffirming a commitment to the freedom posting on social media or connecting to others who share their belief in the freedom, dynamics we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and that would likely also play out in the event of anot monkeypox pandemic."

Monkeypox should be too badly affected by the changing public attitude towards health mandates. Monkeypox is a completely different virus with different properties to COVID-19 (in the Poxviridae family of viruses versus the Coronaviridae family), so infection rate and symptoms are going to be different; the pattern of infection and the severity of illness that we've become used to over the last few years may not apply.

"Monkeypox is far less contagious than COVID-19," Roberts said. "Instead of mass exposure through breathing air in a shared space, monkeypox needs very close contact like sharing the same bed or skin-to-skin contact. Cases are very rare and the modes of transmission are not the same as COVID-19.

"Second, monkeypox and smallpox are in the same virus family. Because we've understood smallpox for so long (50+ years) and already developed treatment strategies and vaccines we're at a much different starting point with monkeypox. All good news for the general public."

COVID-19 may have altered the opinions of many towards being told what to do and what not to do by the government, but it seems that because of the difference in transmission, monkeypox won't be too badly affected by the psychological aftermath.