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COVID-19

Catalonia allows bars and restaurants to stay open for longer

From Monday March 8th, people in Catalonia will be able to eat and drink in the region's restaurants, cafés and bars without interruption from 7:30am to 5pm.

Customers at a bar in Barcelona

The announcement was made at a press conference on Wednesday March 4th, where it was revealed that there will also be several other rule changes from Monday March 8th.

Currently, bars and restaurants in Catalonia can only open for breakfast between 7:30am and 10:30am and for lunch between 1pm and 4.30pm, but the new rules will allow for longer breakfast and lunch times, as well as meriendas and drinks.

The measure has been in place since December 21.

A 30 percent capacity will remain for restaurant interiors, while there is 100 percent capacity allowed on the terrazas. Four people will be allowed to sit at a table, but six will be allowed if they all live in the same household.

Evening meals will still not be prohibited however, so restaurants will continue offering takeaway services at night.

Other measures changing on March 8th include universities being allowed to return to in-person classes at a capacity of 30 percent.

Cultural and sporting activities will also be relaxed. Community centres will be allowed to resume activities for the over 60s, and children and teenagers will have less restrictions on the sporting and other leisure activities.

Changing rooms at gyms and sports centres will also be allowed to reopen. There will continue to be a 30 percent capacity limit at gyms and a maximum of six people wearing masks for group activities. There is also currently a 50 percent capacity limit for swimming pools.

Catalonia, like much of Spain, has recently been relaxing its Covid measures due to the steady drop in cases. On February 8th, bars and restaurants were allowed to open an extra hour for breakfast and lunch.

Shopping malls and stores bigger than 400 metres squared were also allowed to reopen from March 1st, Monday to Friday only, which had been forced to close since January 7th.

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FACE MASKS

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. 

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