Coronavirus: What are the rules in Spain for wearing protective face masks?

Coronavirus: What are the rules in Spain for wearing protective face masks?
Photo: AFP
They have been the most sought after items, flying off the shelves of pharmacies across Spain and being offered at inflated prices online and on the blackmarket as the coronavirus crisis deepened.

And now, Spain’s government has announced that such items as surgical masks and hand sanitizer gel will have a price cap.


Health Minister Salvador Illa announced that disposable surgical masks will carry a fixed price of €0.96 including VAT or IVA as it is known in Spain.

The decision was taken by the Interministerial Committee on Medication Prices to ensure that “the sale of face masks was not open to abuse”.

By the time of the lockdown, it was virtually impossible to buy masks of either the disposable variety or the non-disposal type that can be purchased at hardware stores.

Some were being sold online at vastly inflated prices from €40 to as high as €1,000 as unscrupulous traders cashed on fear and paranoia.

But although there has  been regular talk of it, Spain has yet to state that masks are compulsory outside the home.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) says masks are useful in some settings, including when worn by those who are ill, but says “the wide use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not supported by current evidence” and warns that medical-grade face masks should be reserved for those on the frontline of the coronavirus – including heathcare workers, police, supermarket staff and public transport workers –  who have also faced a shortage

However in Spain, guidelines state that in circumstances where it may be impossible to follow social distancing and keep between 1.5 and 2 metres from another person, face masks are advisable even if home-made.

Here, Fernando Simon explains the different protection offered by types of masks, explaining that the disposal variety will make it less likely that you will infect someone else if you have symptoms of covid-19.

Disposal masks have been issued free to travellers at transport hubs and are available at health centres to those who need it.

Are masks required for children? 

Lockdown restrictions are being loosened for children from Sunday 26th April to allow under 14s to take a walk outside. The rules do not require children to wear protective masks and in fact, government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montero, admitted it was “very complicated to regulate such measures for children”. 

Firstly because in small children it is difficult to ensure they gloves and masks are used efficiently to prevent infection. The second reason is that these items are very difficult to source especially in small sizes. 

However, Pablo Iglesias added that children must keep a distance of at least 1.5 to 2 metres distance from other people and if there was a risk that they would be unable to maintain that distance then disposable masks should be worn.

UPDATE: What you need to know about Spain's new rules for taking children outside during lockdown

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