EXPLAINED: When do you still have to wear a mask outdoors in Spain?

From today, Thursday February 10th 2022, it’s no longer compulsory to wear a face mask outdoors at all times in Spain. But there are some situations where mask wearing in outdoor settings is still required. 

Whether you're going for a jog or just a leisurely walk in Spain, neither situation will require the use of a face mask outdoors anymore. But there are some exceptions to the rule. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

On Friday February 4th, the Spanish government decided that wearing a face mask in outdoor public spaces should no longer be compulsory, only three days after they used every trick in the book to maintain the measure.

READ MORE:  U-turn: Spain decides to ditch outdoor face mask rule

Masks were first made compulsory outdoors in Spain in May 2020 as the country emerged from the full national lockdown, the rule was then scrapped for six months from June to December 2021 as Covid infections dropped, but with the spike in Omicron cases this winter the government chose to reintroduce the outdoor mask rule rule last Christmas Eve. 

After approval by the regions and the Spanish cabinet, it was decided that the outdoor mask rule would be again lifted across all of Spain on Thursday February 10th.

But according to the BOE state bulletin which explains the legislation, there are still situations in outdoor public settings where everyone over the age of six has to wear a face mask. 

When you still have to wear a mask outdoors in Spain:

  • At large, crowded events held in the open air where it’s not possible to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from others if seated, or in all cases where attendees are standing up. This includes concerts and sporting events.
  • At open-air transport platforms for train, tramway, metro etc

Although it’s not mandatory to wear a face mask outdoors if walking along a crowded street where you can’t keep a 1.5 metre distance from others, the recommendation from Spain’s Health Ministry is to wear one in busy areas.

Spain’s regions are also currently deciding whether school children should have to wear face masks on the playground, with most regional authorities leaning towards scrapping the mask rule.

It’s worth noting that it continues to be compulsory to wear a mask in all indoor situations except when eating and drinking or any other activity which is incompatible with mask wearing. 

READ ALSO: When will masks stop being mandatory indoors in Spain?

So carrying a face mask with you is necessary if you want to enter bars, restaurants, cafés, shops, libraries or any other indoor public building. 

It is also still mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport and if you are in a private vehicle with people who you don’t live with. 

Who is exempt from having to wear a mask indoors and outdoors 

  • Children under the age of six

  • People with breathing difficulties or respiratory problems whose condition could worsen as a result of wearing a face mask. 

  • Those with a disability or who are dependent who’s state of mind or conduct make it unfeasible for them to wear a mask.

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Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The Spanish government's health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023, a new report has found, by which stage almost a whole year will have passed since other face mask rules were lifted.

Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

Although masks haven’t been mandatory in indoor public settings (except hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and other health-related centres) since April 20th 2022, face coverings must still be worn on public transport in Spain, such as on buses, planes, taxis, metro carriages and trains.

According to a report published in Spanish news site Voz Populi, Spain’s Emergency Unit has agreed not to review Spain’s face mask rules until March 2023, even though all other Covid-19 domestic and travel restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022.

The article, which cites internal sources from Spain’s government, adds that the country’s Public Health Commission (a body which advises Spain’s Health Ministry on which measures to introduce) has reportedly agreed to shelve any possible changes until March, and as things stand keep the rule in place “for an indefinite time” as “it is not the right time to remove masks due to the arrival of winter”.

The Health Ministry, however, argues that no fixed date for reviewing face mask legislation has been set.

“We’re taking the German approach,” the Emergency Unit source told Voz Populi about the fact that Germany is the only other country in Europe with similar mask-wearing rules to Spain.

On October 1st, new measures were brought into force in Germany stating that passengers over the age of 14 must wear FFP2 masks on long-distance trains rather than surgical ones, with the German government saying it will not review the legislation until April 2023.

Fernando Simón, Spain’s Health Emergencies chief, told journalists recently that “it’s okay to wait a little bit to see how the disease evolves” before making a decision regarding the complete removal of face masks.

However, if Spanish health experts are indeed looking to follow in the footsteps of Germany, there is even a possibility that the return of face masks to all indoor public settings this winter could happen, or at least a debate about it. 

An increase in Covid and flu cases that’s overburdened hospitals this autumn, as well as the emergence of the new Omicron subvariant BQ.1, has resulted in German authorities considering whether they should bring back old Covid-19 restrictions for the winter months.

Spain is also starting to see an increase in Covid and flu infections, and talk of an eighth coronavirus wave is rumbling in the background, but there has been no mention yet by Health Ministry representatives of a possible return to indoor face mask wearing across the board.