Is this the future of bar culture in Spain? One region now requires QR code to be served

Castilla y La Mancha will require its 2 million inhabitants to download a QR code on their phones to be able to visit bars and restaurants.

Is this the future of bar culture in Spain? One region now requires QR code to be served
Photos: AFP

The regional government of Castilla-La Mancha will allow bars and restaurants in this vast but sparsely populated part of central Spain to reopen on Friday February 12.

Their capacity will be limited to a third, they will have to close at 9pm (an hour before the region’s curfew starts) and a maximum of six people will be allowed at each table.

But the standout feature of these relaxed Level 3 restrictions is the obligation for customers to download a QR Code on their phones before heading out for a drink or a meal.

First they have to fill in their personal details on this website and then they will receive an encrypted QR Code which they’ll have to scan at every bar or restaurant.

The purpose of the scheme is to more accurately track where chains of Covid-19 infections occur and who may have been exposed.

Although similar suggestions have been made by hospitality industry bosses in other parts of Spain such as Catalonia, Castilla-La Mancha is the first region to adopt this tech tracking measure.

Spain’s national government did launch the “Radar Covid” tracing app back in August but a study conducted in January 2021 found that it had only been able to trace 2 percent of Covid cases. 

On that occasion, Spain’s left-wing coalition government urged the public to download it on their phones but only 6.8 million of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants downloaded it.

Could it be that by focusing the campaign on one of Spaniards’ preferred pastimes – spending time out with friends and family – Castilla-La Mancha has ensured this tracing method will be more effective? We’ll drink to that!

READ MORE: Has the Covid-19 pandemic killed Spain's pintxos and tapas culture?

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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

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.