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

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.

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

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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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.