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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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TRAVEL NEWS

FACT CHECK: Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?

Spain has dropped most Covid-19 restrictions, but do foreign residents in Spain travelling back to the Spanish territory from an EU or non-EU country still need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery in September and October 2022?

FACT CHECK: Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?

The Covid-19 pandemic no longer dominates daily life or travel in Spain.

In recent days, the Spanish government has scrapped the Spth health control form for all travellers and soon it will stop carrying out temperature and visual checks on non-EU arrivals

That’s not to say that all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted. Non-EU tourists still need to show Covid-19 documents to be allowed into Spain, and on planes that are bound for Spain passengers must wear face masks

But how about for foreign residents in Spain who are travelling back to the Spanish territory after a holiday abroad or a visit to their country of origin? 

For example, would a UK or US national who legally resides in Spain and who has just spent a couple of weeks back in their country of origin need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery when they arrived back in Spain?

The question is not so much whether you’re a resident in Spain, but rather which country you’re travelling to Spain from. 

If it’s a non-EU/Schengen country, then you technically have to show Covid documents. If you’re completely unvaccinated or more than 270 days have passed since your last Covid-19 vaccine, you’ll need to present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test. That’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national or foreign resident in Spain. 

Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated UK national who is resident in Spain needs to get a Covid test before arrival in Spain if travelling from a non-EU country such as the United Kingdom.

If on the other hand you’re returning to Spain from another EU/Schengen country, then you will not have to show a Covid-19 certificate or equivalent document. Again, that’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national, a resident of Spain (EU or non-EU national) or even a non-EU tourist who was already in the EU/Schengen Area before visiting Spain.

do residents need covid documents to travel back to spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated US national who is resident in Spain doesn’t need to show Covid documents or get tested before arrival in Spain if travelling from another EU country.
 

This is according to Spain’s travelsafe.spain.info website, where on its homepage section there is a section which allows you to choose “origin” (city/country you’re travelling from), your nationality and your vaccination status. 

When you fill in the categories and click through, it tells you whether or not you need to get a Covid-19 test. 

It also states your country of residence, even though you’re not given the option of filling this in (although, we reiterate, residence isn’t what counts). 

Are Spanish airport officials still rigorously checking the Covid documents of arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area? No. 

Whether or not you get asked is up to chance. Some travellers have said they have been asked to show proof, whereas others have not.

“I went to the United Kingdom, vaccinated with the third dose more than 290 days ago (20 days over), so I needed a negative diagnostic test to return to Spain. I got a PCR in London, it cost me €80, and in Barcelona I didn’t even get asked for it”, one Spanish national wrote on Twitter.

Keep in mind as well that if you’re travelling back to Spain from a non-EU country, but you have a layover in another EU/Schengen country first before reaching Spain, it will be that country’s rules that apply in terms having to show Covid-19 documents. You will already have entered the EU/Schengen Area before reaching your final destination (Spain), so you will not be asked to provide proof of Covid certificates when you land in Spain.

Is there a risk of being refused entry as a resident if you don’t have any Covid-19 documents upon arrival in Spain and you get asked to provide them? 

The worst-case scenario is that you will be required to take a Covid test there and then at the airport. Spain has allowed legal Spanish residents (whether they’re EU or non-EU nationals) to return home to Spain even at the worst stages of the pandemic when travel was heavily restricted.

So, if you’re travelling back to Spain as a resident from a non-EU country, what Covid proof do you technically have to be able to show? Only one of the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate – Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • A recovery certificate – This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status. 

You can prove the above by showing a digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authorities of the country in which you were vaccinated. If you were vaccinated in Spain, this can be Spain’s EU Digital COVID Certificate.

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