Spain approves law that ends indoor mask rule on April 20th

The Spanish Cabinet on Tuesday passed the highly anticipated decree which will allow people in Spain to no longer have to wear face masks in most indoor settings from Wednesday April 20th.

Spain approves law that ends indoor mask rule on April 20th
After two long years, Spaniards will no longer need to wear masks in indoor public settings, a Spanish royal decree has confirmed. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

For the first time in 700 days, people in Spain will be able to decide whether or not to wear a mask inside a bar, restaurant, shop or cinema on Wednesday. 

The changes to the country’s mask rules, which were first announced on April 6th after weeks of speculation, were fully approved and confirmed by Spain’s Council of Ministers on Tuesday April 19th.

As with other royal decrees, the new law comes into force the following day upon publication in Spain’s state bulletin (BOE), which on this occasion will be published on Wednesday April 20th. 

The rule change marks one of the most symbolic moments of the pandemic in Spain, with all other Covid-19 rules (quarantines, curfews, health passes etc) long gone.  

“Face masks are no longer mandatory, except for certain exceptions,” Darias said at the press conference on Tuesday following the Spanish Cabinet meeting which approved the law. 

These exceptions are the same as those anticipated earlier by Spanish health authorities. Face coverings will still be mandatory in: 

  • Hospitals and other health-related establishments (dental clinics, pharmacies, physiotherapy practices etc)
  • Care homes for visitors and workers
  • All forms of public transport (airplanes, buses, trains, metros, taxis and ferries, the latter if a 1.5 metre distance can’t be kept indoors.)

READ MORE: Where will you still need to wear a mask indoors in Spain?

However, it will no longer be necessary to wear a mask inside bars, cafés, restaurants, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums, concerts, shopping centres, supermarkets, gyms and schools. 

In workplaces, it will be employers who decide whether staff should continue wearing masks although the “general rule” is that face coverings are no longer mandatory.

Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that those over 60, immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and people in their company continue with “responsible use” of face masks indoors. 

For the rest of the population, health authorities also advise exercising “common sense” and “caution”, recommending that they still wear masks in poorly-ventilated or crowded indoor spaces. 

But except for a handful of places where masks continue to be mandatory, from Wednesday April 20th 2022 it will be up to ordinary citizens to decide when and where to wear a mask indoors. 

“We’re recovering some normality and are able to show our faces and smiles again,” Darias said, whilst stressing that masks “should continue to be among us as an element of protection, especially for vulnerable people”. 

There has been a slight increase in Spain’s fortnightly infection rate following the Easter holidays – currently standing at 466 cases per 100,000 people – although Spain’s Health Ministry no longer does an exhaustive recount of daily infections as it did previously.

READ ALSO: Is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?

“We’re not dropping our guard,” Spain’s Health Minister assured.

The removal of the indoor face mask rule is likely to provide clearer insight to where Spain stands in terms of a possible seventh coronavirus wave, or if the country can start a positive new chapter after two difficult years.

Have your say in our poll below: Will you still wear a mask indoors in Spain?


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Spain’s Iberia calls for government to scrap face mask rule on planes

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Spain's Iberia calls for government to scrap face mask rule on planes

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport. 

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations. 

For officials of Spain’s flagship airline Iberia, the time has come for this rule to be lifted.

“One of the airline industry’s main concerns is that mask wearing doesn’t make much sense,” Iberia’s Corporate Communications Director Juan Cierco said during a business talk organised by Spanish news agency Europa Press on Monday.

“We’re the only country along with China and one or two more that still has this rule.”

Cierco added, whilst putting on a mask to prove a point, that: “Here we are with seven ministers, none of them are wearing a mask, so getting on a plane now to or from Spain and being forced to wear a mask doesn’t make sense”.

The corporate director stressed that he wasn’t questioning the view of health experts but couldn’t understand why almost all other countries ditched the mask rule for public transport long ago.

“We should take off our masks because it’s affecting tourism and business now. Many international passengers tell us that they prefer to fly to other destinations or with other airlines, because 10 hours with the mask on board a plane, when it is no longer necessary or essential for health reasons, it just doesn’t make any sense”.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to masks. 

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

READ ALSO: Masks still compulsory on planes in Spain despite confusion

Spain’s Confederation of Bus Transport (Confebús), German company FlixBus and Madrid Municipal’s Transport Company (EMT) have also voiced their opposition to the lingering mask rule.

So, will Iberia’s views make a difference to the Spanish government’s stance regarding masks?

According to a report published in late October, the Spanish government’s health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023.

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”.

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