*APRIL 8TH UPDATE: Spain’s Ministry of Health and the country’s 17 regional authorities have agreed that masks will not always be mandatory on the beach, at swimming pools or in nature. Find out more here. We will update this article with the latest information once the new rules are fully confirmed.
What’s happened (in a nutshell)?
Spain has made it mandatory to wear a face mask in all public places, including at the beach, at the swimming pool or the countryside where previously people could remove them as long as they kept their distance.
Now, regardless of the safety distance of 1.5 metres, people will have to keep their mask on at all times in public.
What are the details?
From Tuesday March 30th 2021, it will be mandatory for everyone in Spain over the age of six to wear a face mask in all public spaces, regardless of the safety distance.
This is a nationwide law published in Spain’s latest BOE state bulletin, whereas previously Spain’s 17 regions had the authority to make the previous face mask regulation stricter or more lenient.
As just mentioned, outdoor areas such as beaches, swimming pools and spots in nature where keeping a social distance was easy were excluded from the mandatory mask list of some autonomous communities.
The new decree essentially means that from now on, even if you’re sunbathing on a beach which you have completely to yourself, you should wear your mask. If you’re trekking through a quiet forest at 7am, again, mask at all times.
Needless to say, the obligation of wearing a mask in urban areas and indoor public spaces, as well as on public transport, as has been the norm until now, will remain in force.
Are there any exceptions?
Under the law masks can only be removed for individual exercise outdoors.
There is no specific mention yet as to what is allowed in terms of mask wearing while not eating and drinking at a bar or restaurant terrace, but if there is a general tightening of restrictions, wearing a face mask while food and drink isn’t being consumed may be expected.
Those with specific health conditions and respiratory problems are exempt.
The document also mentions further exceptions for unspecified situations of a “force majeure” nature.
How much will the new mask regulations affect me?
It really depends where you are in Spain. Some regions such as Aragon, Asturias, Cantabria, the Balearic Islands or Castilla-La Mancha, stuck to the nationwide laws until now, so people in these parts of Spain may feel they can’t really go anywhere now where they can remove their masks in public.
Other regions such as Andalusia or Madrid had already decided to make it mandatory to wear a mask at all times in public regardless of the safety distance, with exceptions, so residents of autonomous communities with tighter mask wearing rules may not notice the difference as much.
Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP
How have Spain’s regions reacted to the new rule?
Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Galicia and Valencia have all been in favour of keeping their current regional mask-wearing regulations in place until the Health Ministry amends the state regulations. This means that over Semana Santa, fines of up to €100 for not obliging with the new mask law, will not be enforced.
Several autonomous communities have said that the new rule clashes with the current laws they currently have in place.
Why is Spain tightening its face mask laws?
Spain’s infection rate, which is measured over the preceding 14 days, has risen from 128 cases to 149 cases per 100,000 people over the course of the last week.
This comes as ongoing reports of young European tourists flooding into Madrid to enjoy the Spanish capital’s relatively lenient restrictions both worry and anger Spaniards, especially given that infections are rising faster there, and that Spanish residents are under regional lockdown for Easter.
But Spain is gearing up to open to even more tourists as soon as its vaccination campaign is more firmly underway (the target of 70 percent immunity among its population as the benchmark for reopening to foreign holidaymakers has been reduced to 30 to 40 percent).
With international travel likely to be more challenging than usual for Spaniards and sun-starved northern Europeans eager to enjoy the Spanish weather, beaches and swimming pools across Spain could well be packed this summer, regardless of social distancing.
It could be that Pedro Sánchez’s government wants to make it clear what the rules are in Spain, especially for foreigners whose home countries don’t apply the same face mask regulation.
The influx of international visitors and mobility within Spain may also concern Spanish authorities, who fear that the infection rates will shoot up again and cut the financially crucial summer season short.
How have people reacted to the news?
Judging by the reaction on social media the law might not be too popular especially among those who work in the tourism industry who fear it will deal another blow to their chances of recovery.
A Twitter user by the name of Enfermera Saturada (Overworked Nurse) argued that it makes no sense to “wear a mask if you’re walking alone in the mountains or sunbathing 50 metres away from the closest person” but that the new nationwide law allows someone “riding on a bike or going for a run in the street” to not wear one “as long as you’re wearing sports clothes”.
👉🏼 Mascarilla obligatoria si caminas tú solo por el monte o si estás en una playa tomando el sol a 50 metros de la persona más cercana.
👉🏼 Pero NO es obligatoria si vas en bici o corres por una calle con ropa de deporte.
Una ley sin criterio alguno. https://t.co/PAcudLjwE0
— Enfermera Saturada 🦖 (@EnfrmraSaturada) March 30, 2021
Commentator Juan Carlos Girauta said the measure would “destroy tourism” and questioned if “going for a stroll” didn’t constitute individual outdoor physical activity.
Ojo. Obligatoria la mascarilla al aire libre aunque estés solo. Incluyendo la playa. Se exceptúa el deporte individual.
1) Van a reventar el turismo en verano.
2) ¿Quién establece qué es deporte? ¿Por qué pasear no lo es?
3) La ley debe ser racional.https://t.co/NIMh6zLdvl
— Juan Carlos Girauta (@GirautaOficial) March 30, 2021
When we broke the news on Facebook, the reaction from our readers was overwhelmingly negative, with the measure being labelled as “ridiculous” and “madness”.
The general consensus among most negative commentators is that there will be little point in going to the beach or spending time outdoors at swimming pools or in nature if you have to keep your mask on at all times. It appears that some potential tourists have already been dissuaded from coming to Spain for their holidays as a result of the new legislation.
— roxanne g. randel (@roxannerandel) March 30, 2021
What do you think of Spain’s new face mask laws? Share your opinion on our poll below.
Is Spain right to make face masks obligatory for all outdoor spaces, including beaches and pools?
— The Local Europe (@TheLocalEurope) March 30, 2021