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COVID-19

What Spanish authorities advise about wearing face masks

The Spanish government has issued some important advice about mask wearing to help keep the population safe from coronavirus.

What Spanish authorities advise about wearing face masks
Advice from the Spanish government on mask wearing | Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Masks are now mandatory across almost all regions of Spain, both in indoor and outdoor public spaces.

The only exceptions are when you’re eating and drinking, doing sport or exercise or at the beach. Children under the age of six are also exempt. The first region to introduce this was Catalonia on July 9th and one of the last was Madrid on July 30th.

Anyone caught without a mask when they're supposed to wear one can be fined up to €100 euros. 

Below is a list of advice from the Spanish authorities on how to wear and look after your mask

The first thing to remember is that you must always wash your hands before putting the mask on. Hands must be washed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or hand sanitiser when soap is not available.

Make sure your mask is not damaged and doesn’t have any holes in. It should also be clean, if you see any dirt, make sure to exchange it for a new one.

Ensure that you put your mask on the correct way around. To do this, locate the part of the mask which goes over the nose. With reusable masks, this is typically a small bump at the top of the mask and on surgical masks, it’s usually the part with the strip of metal, which can grip the bridge of your nose.

With surgical masks, always make sure that the coloured part faces the outside and that the white part is touching your face.

The mask must always be covering the mouth, nose and chin, make sure that the mask fits your face correctly. There shouldn’t be any gaps at the sides.

Surgical masks are sold at most Spanish pharmacies and reusable fabric masks are available in many shops, as well as online.

 

Reusable fabric face mask

Reusable fabric face masks | Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

Don’t touch your mask once you’ve put it on. If you need to adjust it or manipulate it to fit your face, do this by only touching the elastic string which goes behind the ears or around the back of the head.

For comfort and hygiene reasons, it’s recommended that you don’t wear the same mask for more than four hours. If the mask gets wet, exchange it for a different one straight away.

The mask should not be removed when talking with others. If you’re going to a tapas bar or restaurant, where masks don’t have to be worn, make sure you don’t put them down on any surfaces, like the table. If you’ve put your mask down anywhere, you should exchange your mask for a new one, even if it’s a reusable one.

Do not reuse masks that are not designed to be reused. This includes the surgical masks.

To take off your mask, always do it from behind, taking hold of the elastic behind the ears first, so you avoid touch the front. Once removed, put it straight in the bin and wash your hands immediately afterwards. It is recommended that the mask is put in a bin with lid to avoid spreading any potential virus particles further.

Reusable masks should be worn according to the instructions of the maker. For example, Barcelona-based company Masks for All advises that their organic cotton masks should be machine washed at 60°C on a delicate setting or hand washed with hot water and detergent, then air dried.

The government also reminds its citizens that masks alone do not protect completely against Covid-19 and that even though you have a mask on, you must still maintain a distance from others and wash your hands frequently. 

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COVID-19

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.

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