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COVID-19 RULES

Is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?

After 700 days, Spain has finally said goodbye to the vast majority of its indoor face mask rules, but is the country actually ready to do so?

Is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?
Spain says goodbye to face masks indoors today, but is it the right decision? Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP

Spain has had one of Europe’s strictest mask-wearing policies, requiring people to wear them both outdoors and indoors for long periods of the pandemic, long after other countries had dropped them.

Since January 2022, the vast majority of Spain’s neighbouring countries have been lifting the obligation to wear masks indoors. Only Portugal, Slovakia, Malta, Italy and Greece have maintained the rule.

The changes to the country’s mask rules were first announced on April 6th and were fully approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers on Tuesday April 19th.

From today, Wednesday April 20th, face masks will only be mandatory in hospitals and other health-related establishments, care homes and on all forms of public transport.

READ ALSO: Where will you still need to wear a mask indoors in Spain?

But with many across the country still even wearing masks outdoors, is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?

Are people in Spain ready?

Health Minister Carolina Darias said that the dropping of the indoor mask rule was “socially demanded” and that “it was the right moment for logical reasons”.

It means easier communication, particularly in such a social country, as well as the ability to see each other’s faces and smiles again and helps to express ourselves with more than just words and hand movements.

And as the warm weather approaches, it means people won’t have trouble breathing through a mask in the summer heat, which was very common last year. 

The indoor mask-wearing rule has also been dropped in schools and has mostly been welcomed by experts in this situation, saying that mask-wearing has had significant effects on children’s social and verbal development.

According to the hospital group HM Hospitales, the use of masks has caused a 20 percent increase in consultations for children’s speech problems.

Mask rules have also seen an increase in síndrome de la cara vacía or mask-fishing among teens – a phobia or feeling of anxiety by exposing your face and taking off your mask.  

There is no official government poll yet asking Spaniards if they think the lifting of the indoor face mask rule has come too early or not, but leading Spanish newspapers such as El País and El Mundo have run their own polls with fairly even results between “yes” and “no”. Younger people appear more likely to be in favour of the mask mandate being scrapped and the older generations tend to be against the lifting of the indoor mask rules.

Have your say in our poll below: Will you still wear a mask indoors in Spain?

 

What the experts say

The Spanish government has made it clear that this decision has been made under the recommendations of experts. However, not all virologists and epidemiologists agree that dropping the indoor mask rule is a good idea.  

Opinions among Spanish health experts seem to be as divided as among the general population. While some say that we need to return to normality, others say that it’s too soon and that we need to see what effect the Easter holidays have had on the spread of Covid before making such a decision.  

The Spanish Society of Epidemiology (SEE) said that dropping the rule “on a certain date cannot be a measure based on the evidence of the epidemiological situation” as it was done without knowing the evolution of the pandemic over Semana Santa.  

Virologist Sonia Zúñiga of Spain’s National Centre for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC) believes that it would be “wise” to wait before eliminating masks. “It could be sensible” to remove them “gradually”, starting with environments with lower risk, such as schools, since children have “a much lower risk of suffering from severe disease.  

Some experts recall that the pandemic is not over yet and they don’t rule out having to take steps backward if the situation worsens. However, Salvador Pero, an expert in public health argues that “the prospects are good, as many are vaccinated”. 

According to the latest stats, 86 percent of people in Spain have been fully vaccinated. 

What is the epidemiological situation in Spain right now? 

In the last 14 days, Spain has recorded 505.9 Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Tuesday April 19th there were 5,635 patients hospitalised for Covid-19 in the country, 15 percent more than a week ago. In the ICU however, admissions continue to fall. According to the latest health report, 345 people are in intensive care, 23 fewer than seven days earlier.

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COVID-19 RULES

Covid-19: Spain to scrap face mask rule for hospitals and pharmacies

The Spanish Health Ministry has announced that masks will no longer be required in certain healthcare settings, including hospitals and pharmacies, with a couple of exceptions.

Covid-19: Spain to scrap face mask rule for hospitals and pharmacies

The Ministry of Health, along with representatives of each autonomous community in Spain, decided at the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS) on Friday June 23rd that it would no longer be mandatory to wear masks in hospitals, pharmacies and other clinical settings.

Spain dropped the mask rule on public transport in February 2023, but since the very early days of the pandemic in 2020, they have been required in health centres, hospitals and clinics.

Where will masks no longer be mandatory?

You will no longer need to wear a mask when you visit these places:

  • Pharmacies
  • Physiotherapy clinics
  • Dental clinics
  • Health centres
  • Nursing/Care homes
  • Hospitals

Are there any places where masks are still required?

Yes. Spanish Health Minister José Miñones has confirmed that the use of masks will still be required in areas with vulnerable patients and some places where they were mandatory before the pandemic too. These include:  

  • Operating rooms
  • Intensive care units
  • Areas where there are immunocompromised patients
  • Cancer wards
  • Emergency rooms

When will it enter into force?

This measure was expected to be approved by the Spanish Cabinet on Tuesday, June 27th and enter into force the next day on Wednesday, after its publication in the Official State Bulletin (BOE). But on Monday Spain’s Health Minister said the date would have to be pushed back as the matter wouldn’t be addressed in the Spanish cabinet on Tuesday, adding that mask removal in hospitals and health centres will happen “as soon as possible”.

Masks first became mandatory in all indoor and outdoor spaces in Spain in May 2020 as the country emerged from a two-month national lockdown in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The outdoor mask rule was scrapped in February 2022 and in April 2022 it was the turn of the indoor mask rule, with the only exceptions being health centres, care homes and pharmacies.

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