Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule
Masks no longer mandatory on public transport in Austria. But a surge in cases made doctors start recommending them once again. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first. 

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Spain wants masks worn in hospitals as viruses surge

The Spanish government on Friday called for the wearing of masks to be obligatory in medical facilities as cases of flu and Covid-19 surge with the onset of winter.

Spain wants masks worn in hospitals as viruses surge

With the increase in respiratory infections, “we are calling” for the return of obligatory mask-wearing in hospitals and health centres, Health Minister Monica Garcia said on X, formerly Twitter.

The minister said she would bring up the subject on Monday at a meeting with regional representatives overseeing health issues.

READ ALSO: Respiratory infections soar in Spain over Christmas as hospitals struggle

The meeting would enable “coordinated public health action to be taken in the face of the epidemic spikes”.

The eastern region of Valencia and Catalonia, in the northeast, announced Friday that health professionals and patients would have to wear masks in medical facilities there.

The move came after doctors raised the alarm over mounting cases of flu as well as Covid and other respiratory ailments, particularly in the east of the country.

READ ALSO: Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Spain

Spain only lifted the obligatory wearing of masks in high-risk facilities such as hospitals, retirement homes and pharmacies in July 2023.

Spaniards broadly complied with the obligation to wear masks during the Covid pandemic which saw the badly-hit nation adopt some of the strictest measures in the world to fight the virus.