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Spain to make face masks compulsory outdoors again

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The Local ([email protected])
Spain to make face masks compulsory outdoors again
People wearing face masks walk in Burgos, northern Spain, on October 21, 2020, on the first day of a two week lockdown in an attempt to limit the contagion of the new coronavirus COVID-19 in the area. - Spain has become one of the pandemic's hotspots in the European Union, with close to 975,000 registered cases and nearly 34,000 deaths. (Photo by Cesar Manso / AFP)

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday announced that face masks will be compulsory in Spain in all outdoor situations once again, even when a distance of 1.5 metres from other people can be maintained.

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Initial reports from the Conference of Presidents being held between Sánchez and the country’s 17 regional leaders suggest that the outdoor face mask requirement is the standout Covid-19 restriction to be implemented in Spain this Christmas.

The announcement comes as Spain recorded its highest daily case numbers since the pandemic began, the fortnightly infection rate continues rising in the “extreme” risk level and Omicron cases represent at least 47 percent of new infections.

The Spanish cabinet is set to approve a decree law on Thursday December 23rd for the measure to come into force. When the rule will be applicable is yet to be confirmed.

Wearing a face mask outdoors when a safe distance of 1.5 metres from others can be kept hasn't been compulsory since June 26th 2021.

But faced with rising infections among a largely vaccinated population, regional leaders in the Basque Country, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha and the Valencia region had suggested that making face masks mandatory at all times during the busy Christmas period could help to reduce case numbers.

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Face masks were first made compulsory in public in Spain in May 2020 as the country emerged from its first full lockdown.

In March 2021, the Spanish government tightened the rules to require people to wear masks in almost all indoor and outdoor settings even if people kept to the safety distance, unless the activity was incompatible with mask wearing ie. eating, drinking, sunbathing, running etc

The backlash it caused after locals and tourists realised this would mean they would have to wear a mask while sunbathing or at the pool led Spanish authorities to tweak the legislation to allow some exceptions. 

For the past six months, many Spaniards have continued wearing face masks in outdoor public spaces as an extra precaution, with far less reluctance among the Spanish population than in other European countries.

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