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MASKS

How Spain’s regions and epidemiologists have been reacting to the new mask law

On March 30th, the Spanish government announced a new law requiring people to wear masks outdoors at all times, including on the beaches and walking in the countryside, even if a safe distance is kept. Over the past few days, however, there has been a backlash from both residents and scientists. Here is how Spain’s autonomous communities and its epidemiologists have been reacting.

A woman wearing a mask on the beach
Photo: Josep Lago/ AFP

The current rules in place require people to wear masks outside, only when a safe distance can’t be maintained, however, each Spanish region has slightly different variations on the law. For example, in certain autonomous communities, you can sunbathe without a mask, but when walking along the shore, you must wear one. Others, however, say that masks are not required on the beach at all if you can keep a safe distance. 

On March 30th however, the government announced a new rule which would be applicable throughout the whole of Spain. “People from the age of six and older have the obligation to wear masks on public streets, in outdoor spaces and in any closed space that has a public use or is open to the public,” read the new law published in the Official State Gazette (BOE).

READ ALSO: Spain to require public to wear face masks outdoors at all times

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 have in place and that forcing people to wear a mask while sunbathing or walking the countryside is a “decontextualised” decision because the law does not say anything about having to wear masks indoors. 

The current mask-wearing rules across the following regions will stay the same over Easter:

The Community of Valencia has said that the “beach is a safe space”. President Ximo Puig said that they will propose a new law to regulate the use of masks at the beach, which will mean masks will not be required, as long as people respect social distancing and relationship rules.

The Balearic Islands have said that wearing masks on the beach with cohabitants will not be necessary, as long as you can maintain a safe distance from others. However, they have said that you do have to wear the mask if you are on the beach with a group of up to six people who you do not live with.

Catalonia has said that the new laws regarding masks will not come into force over Easter and that during Semana Santa, masks will be mandatory in open spaces, as long as it’s not incompatible with the activity you are doing, such as going for a dip in the sea.

The Canary Islands have said that the new rule will not affect the current regulations they have in place, which include being able to sunbathe on the beach without a mask, as long as people are sitting on their towel and are maintaining a safe distance from others.

Galicia has said that sunbathing without a mask will be allowed, but that sports must be done with a mask on.

Basque Country will keep its current measures in place over Easter. These include the requirement of a mask while walking along the shore, but not when sunbathing, as long as people live in the same household and are maintaining a distance of at least one metre from other groups.

Cantabria has said they hope that the government will clarify the new mask rules because they contradict what is currently in place. The region’s current rules state people must wear masks up until the entrance of the beach but can remove them for sunbathing and walking along the shore, as long as a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Spain’s new face mask law will affect you

What do the epidemiologists say about the measure?

The majority of experts have criticised the new law requiring masks to be worn outside at all times, even if people can keep a safe distance, and say that it has no scientific basis.

Epidemiologist Alex Arenas, a professor at the Rovira I Virgili University of Tarragona told NIUS Diario “We must promote life outdoors, where the contagion is 20 times less”. He has criticised the Health Ministry who he says are discarding scientific advice. “Open-air and distance are how we fight this virus,” he continued.

Ignacio López-Goñi, professor of microbiology at the University of Navarra also told NIUS Diario: “The measures that oblige or limit basic freedoms must be few, easy to follow and consistent, and must be explained well. The citizen must understand the reason for the measures to be followed. The use of a mask must be required indoors, for example at work, even if there is a safe distance”. 

Epidemiologist and former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Daniel López Acuña agrees with the government’s new law, however. “It makes all the sense in the world to take extreme precautions and reduce infections,” he said. He believes it is good that the government is taking these extra precautions and that distance is not enough, even in outdoor spaces. He believes that masks should be worn on the beach.

In response to the backlash, Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero explained on Wednesday, March 31st, that the new law will still need to be analysed and reviewed “in case anything published in it is not in line with what has been learned”. 

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COVID-19 RULES

What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain? 

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