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FACE MASKS

Will face masks soon not be required in Spain’s classrooms?

School classrooms could soon become the first indoor public spaces in Spain where face masks are not required, with the country’s paediatricians proposing that they serve as “a mirror for the rest of society” of what a gradual de-escalation of mask wearing indoors would mean.

masks indoors spain
Students wearing face masks attend class at the Lopez de Mendoza Institute in Burgos after the reopening of schools in the community of Castilla y León. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

Less than a week since face masks stopped being mandatory outdoors in Spain, the prospect of this applying to some interior settings has already been proposed. 

The suggestion isn’t one made by the Spanish government, but rather an official organisation which has collected evidence “to demonstrate the usefulness of a change in strategy”, serving also as “a mirror for the rest of society”.

The Spanish Association of Paediatricians (AEP) is in favour of the progressive withdrawal of masks from Spain’s classrooms, as their research has proven that “children’s ability to infect others follows an age-dependent pattern, which increases progressively with age”.

Other Spanish health experts are also beginning to speak of “normalising transmission” as such a high percentage of the population has now been vaccinated or infected, or in many cases both. 

That involves accepting that transmission will continue and instead focus efforts on preventing cases that may be more serious, generally among those who are older and those who have pre-existing health conditions. 

Since the use of masks in schools is only mandatory for children over 6 years of age, AEP have been able to compare the risk of infection between those who use a mask (primary and secondary education) and those who do not (preschool education), concluding that “there are no significant differences” in transmission between them. 

As a result, they propose a progressive de-escalation of mask wearing in classrooms across the country as follows:

  • First and second year of primary school: from Monday, February 28th 2022
  • Third and fourth year of primary school: from Monday, March 14th 2022
  • Fifth and sixth year of primary school: from Monday, March 28th 2022
  • All of secondary school (ESO) : from Monday, April 25th 2022
  • All of high school/sixth form (Bachiller) : from Monday, May 9th 2022

Both the associations of speech therapists and paediatricians have also spoken up against “the possible negative impact of the use of the mask on learning, relationships and the socialisation of children”.

Throughout the pandemic, Spain has maintained a strict attitude to indoor mask-wearing, making it mandatory since May 2020.

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

Spanish authorities have however spoken of leading a global push towards treating the coronavirus as an endemic disease similar to the flu, changing the means of surveillance and the importance it is given.

People do continue to die from Covid-19 in Spain and the sixth wave has in fact now claimed more lives (9,126) in the country than the fifth and fourth coronavirus wave. 

But according to leading epidemiologist Quique Bassat, “it a good time to consider this de-escalation” of mask wearing in classrooms as a trial because “on the one hand, we have two consecutive weeks of declining infection rates, and on the other a progressive increase in vaccination in children under 12, which although it is not advancing at the rate that I would like to see, it is clearly increasing”.

Together with increased vaccination rates, good ventilation of classrooms would also be used as another tool to replace mask wearing in classrooms.

But could all this apply to adults, seeing as children have a far lower risk of suffering serious health conditions if they contract Covid-19?

The evolution of the pandemic will determine much of this, but slowly but surely, it seems likely that masks indoors will go from being mandatory to recommended at some point in some indoor settings over the course of 2022. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Britons, Americans and other non-EU/Schengen travellers who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered from Covid-19 will not be able to visit Spain for tourism for at least another month, Spanish authorities have confirmed.

TRAVEL: Spain extends ban on unvaccinated non-EU tourists

The Spanish government has again extended temporary restrictions for non-essential travel (including tourism) from most third countries for another month, until June 15th 2022.

That means that non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and who haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the illness in the past six months cannot go on holiday to Spain during the next month. 

Therefore, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, Indian or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

There had been hopes that the shorter two-week extension to the ban on non-essential travel issued on April 30th, as well as talk of the “orderly and progressive reopening” of the country’s borders, would mean that unvaccinated third country nationals would be allowed into Spain in May.

But in the end, Saturday May 14th’s state bulletin confirmed that Spain will keep the same measures in place for another 31 days, stating that they “will eventually be modified to respond to a change of circumstances or to new recommendations in the context of the European Union”.

Spain’s ban on unvaccinated non-EU travellers is arguably the last major Covid-19 restriction in place in the country, and other EU countries such as Sweden, Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic and Ireland are allowing unvaccinated tourists in.

This latest announcement by the Spanish government marks the umpteenth extension to non-essential travel from outside of the EU/Schengen area over the past two years of the pandemic, the previous one was due to expire on May 15th. 

But perhaps this extension is the most surprising, as the Spanish health ministry has modified its rulebook to treat Covid-19 like the flu and the country wants to recover the tourism numbers it had pre-pandemic.

The ban affects unvaccinated British tourists in particular, as the UK is still the biggest tourism market for Spain, but Britons’ non-EU status means they have to follow the same Covid-19 travel rules as other third-country nationals.

Vaccinated or recovered third-country travellers

Those who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 more than two weeks prior to travel to Spain will need to show a valid vaccination certificate with an EMA or WHO approved vaccine.

If their initial vaccination treatment was completed more than 9 months ago (270 days), they’ll need to show they’ve had a Covid-19 booster shot. 

As for non-EU/Schengen travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, they will need to show a recovery certificate to prove this

According to Spain’s Health Ministry, recovery certificates accepted as valid are those “issued at least 11 days after the first positive NAAT or RAT, and up to a maximum of 180 days after the date of sampling”, as well as being issued by the relevant authorities.

Exceptions

In early February, Spanish authorities also decided to start allowing unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen teenagers aged 12 to 17 to visit Spain for tourism if they provided a negative PCR.

Spain continues to have a small list of low-risk third countries whose travellers visiting Spain for non-essential reasons can enter without having to present proof of Covid-19 testing, recovery or vaccination. 

This is updated weekly and can be checked here by clicking on the PDF under “risk and high risk countries/areas”. 

READ ALSO: Can I travel to my second home in Spain if I’m not vaccinated?

If you’re not vaccinated or recovered, the exceptions for travel to Spain from third countries that fall under the non-essential travel restrictions are:

  • You are a resident in the EU or Schengen country.
  • You have a visa for a long duration stay in an EU or Schengen country.
  • You work in transport, such as airline staff or are in a maritime profession.
  • You work in diplomatic, consular, international organisations, military or civil protection or are a member of a humanitarian organisation.
  • You have a student visa for a country in the EU or Schengen zone.
  • You are a highly qualified worker or athlete whose work cannot be postponed or carried out remotely.
  • You are travelling for duly accredited imperative family reasons.
  • You are allowed entry due to force majeure or on humanitarian grounds.
  • And as mentioned earlier in the article, if you have a vaccination certificate that Spain’s Ministry of Health recognises, as well as for any accompanying minors (unless they’re under 12 years of age).

READ ALSO: When do I need to fill out Spain’s Covid health control form for travel?

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