Face masks are now mandatory in Spain: What you need to know

Fask masks will become mandatory from Thursday across Spain.

On Wednesday the Spanish government published details of the new mandatory fask mask rule in the Official State Gazette (BOE) that comes into effect on Thursday.

These are the rules:

  • Face masks must be worn in on the street and inside public places or places open to the public when it is impossible to keep two metres apart from other people. 
  • They are compulsory for all those over the age of 6 
  • It also advises that masks are worn by children aged between three and five years old but does not make it compulsory.

However there are specific exemptions:

  • Those with a respiratory condition that is exacerbated by wearing a mask or if a person suffers from a disability or condition that would result in behavioural changes that makes the wearing of a mask unfeasible.
  • If they are involved in an activity that would be incompatible with wearing a mask – such as eating or drinking.

The order explains that the mask must be of a kind that covers the mouth and nose, preferably of a surgical or hygiene variety but one that meets basic sanitary criteria. The government has issued guidelines for those who want to make their own at home.

Those who are caught not wearing masks when they should be could be fined but the government decree did not specify penalties for failing to comply.

 

 

The Spanish Health Ministry announced on Monday evening that face masks to protect against coronavirus must be worn in closed spaces and on the street where social distancing cannot be observed.

The announcement did not come as a surprise after weeks of debate over whether such a measure was necessary and Health Minister Salvador Illa had stated on Sunday that the government was poised to extend the compulsory use of face masks beyond public transport where it has been required since May 4th.

But with much of Spain now advanced to Phase 1, which means meetings are now allowed between friends, small shops are opening and even museums and cultural spaces are opening once more to limited capacity, the guidelines on face masks have been clarified.

Following weekly discussions between regional health chiefs the decision was made to make face masks mandatory in closed spaces and on the street “when it is not possible to guarantee a safe minimum distance of two metres between people”, said a statement released on Monday evening.

This measure marks a huge change from official advice at the start of the coronavirus crisis when the public was told that masks were not recommended to be worn by anyone except those who had symptoms themselves or were caring for someone with symptoms.

While masks are everyday accessories in parts of Asia, for those not accustomed to wearing them the experience can be unnerving, even daunting.

Here are some tips for the uninitiated:

Which mask?


Photo: AFP

Unless you are a frontline health worker you do not need a high-spec respirator like the N95 or FFP2, experts say.

Leave those for the professionals. 

When it comes to other types of masks, the advice has shifted with the understanding of the epidemic. 

Initially, health authorities and the World Health Organization said it was useless for the general population to wear masks in public. 

Now it is increasingly recommended as part of the public health toolbox, along with frequent handwashing and physical distancing.    

With medical personal protective equipment off the table, authorities have suggested people buy or make fabric face coverings. 

The WHO has expressed doubts that these will offer full protection for the wearer, but notes that they could stop an unknowingly infected person from passing the virus on to others. 


This matters because a significant minority of people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms at all.  

Those wanting to make their own masks have no shortage of tutorials online to turn to for inspiration. 

The website of the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has instructions for how to make a no-sew mask by cutting up a T-Shirt.

Some countries have published manufacturing standards — even for homemade masks. 

In France, authorities recommend that they should be made from at least two layers of flexible and, importantly, breathable fabric. 

There should not be vertical seams where it fits to the mouth, nose and chin to avoid leakage.   


Spain's deputy prime minister, Pablo Iglesias, wears a mask in parliament. Photo: AFP

Masks produced for sale by textile manufacturers — following either a “duckbill” or “pleated” pattern — must filter between 70 percent and 90 percent of particles expelled by the wearer that are three microns in diameter. The average human hair is roughly 80 microns thick.

Very young infants should not wear masks because of the risk of suffocation. Regulations as to the exact age threshold depends on the country.

How to fit it

Once you have purchased or made your mask, there are some simple tips for wearing it comfortably and safely.

The main thing to remember is that a face covering does not replace other key virus avoidance measures: soap and social distance.

It may go without saying, but the mask should be worn on your face, not hung around the neck like a scarf, nor on the forehead like a bandana. This risks contamination.

As does sharing the mask with others.

To put one on, first wash your hands.

Then holding the mask by its strings, fit it snugly over your mouth, nose and chin and fasten it in place.


A teacher wearing a protective face mask speaks with pupils after they have returned to their classroom in France. AFP

With surgical type masks, there is sometimes a rigid bar that goes over the bridge of the nose and can be pinched to fit the face. 

It is important to ensure it fits comfortably.

A badly-fitted mask risks slippage and discomfort, tempting you to touch your face.

If you do need to adjust the mask while out, you will need to wash your hands first.

Single-use surgical masks can normally be worn for a maximum of a few hours before they should be replaced, depending on the type. It should be discarded earlier if it becomes wet or damaged.  

In France, the rules state even non-disposable masks should be worn only for around four hours, meaning you would need to pack several if planning to be using them all day.

When taking off the mask, first wash your hands.  

Holding it by the fasteners, remove the mask without touching the potentially contaminated front section. Wash your hands. 

After use 

Single use surgical masks should be discarded after use, preferably in a closed bin.

For fabric models, washing instructions vary by country.

The US CDC says they should be washed regularly — after each time they are worn — using a mild detergent, then “dried completely in a hot dryer”.

In France, the advice is at least 30 minutes on a 60 degrees Celsius machine wash, then drying either in a machine or open air, then ironing.  

Putting the mask in the freezer or microwave to try to kill the virus is not recommended.

Even fabric masks have a shelf life as the material degrades with washing.

At the slightest sign of wear, throw it away.

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