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COVID-19 RULES

Is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?

After 700 days, Spain has finally said goodbye to the vast majority of its indoor face mask rules, but is the country actually ready to do so?

Is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?
Spain says goodbye to face masks indoors today, but is it the right decision? Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP

Spain has had one of Europe’s strictest mask-wearing policies, requiring people to wear them both outdoors and indoors for long periods of the pandemic, long after other countries had dropped them.

Since January 2022, the vast majority of Spain’s neighbouring countries have been lifting the obligation to wear masks indoors. Only Portugal, Slovakia, Malta, Italy and Greece have maintained the rule.

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

From today, Wednesday April 20th, face masks will only be mandatory in hospitals and other health-related establishments, care homes and on all forms of public transport.

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

But with many across the country still even wearing masks outdoors, is Spain ready to get rid of masks indoors?

Are people in Spain ready?

Health Minister Carolina Darias said that the dropping of the indoor mask rule was “socially demanded” and that “it was the right moment for logical reasons”.

It means easier communication, particularly in such a social country, as well as the ability to see each other’s faces and smiles again and helps to express ourselves with more than just words and hand movements.

And as the warm weather approaches, it means people won’t have trouble breathing through a mask in the summer heat, which was very common last year. 

The indoor mask-wearing rule has also been dropped in schools and has mostly been welcomed by experts in this situation, saying that mask-wearing has had significant effects on children’s social and verbal development.

According to the hospital group HM Hospitales, the use of masks has caused a 20 percent increase in consultations for children’s speech problems.

Mask rules have also seen an increase in síndrome de la cara vacía or mask-fishing among teens – a phobia or feeling of anxiety by exposing your face and taking off your mask.  

There is no official government poll yet asking Spaniards if they think the lifting of the indoor face mask rule has come too early or not, but leading Spanish newspapers such as El País and El Mundo have run their own polls with fairly even results between “yes” and “no”. Younger people appear more likely to be in favour of the mask mandate being scrapped and the older generations tend to be against the lifting of the indoor mask rules.

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

 

What the experts say

The Spanish government has made it clear that this decision has been made under the recommendations of experts. However, not all virologists and epidemiologists agree that dropping the indoor mask rule is a good idea.  

Opinions among Spanish health experts seem to be as divided as among the general population. While some say that we need to return to normality, others say that it’s too soon and that we need to see what effect the Easter holidays have had on the spread of Covid before making such a decision.  

The Spanish Society of Epidemiology (SEE) said that dropping the rule “on a certain date cannot be a measure based on the evidence of the epidemiological situation” as it was done without knowing the evolution of the pandemic over Semana Santa.  

Virologist Sonia Zúñiga of Spain’s National Centre for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC) believes that it would be “wise” to wait before eliminating masks. “It could be sensible” to remove them “gradually”, starting with environments with lower risk, such as schools, since children have “a much lower risk of suffering from severe disease.  

Some experts recall that the pandemic is not over yet and they don’t rule out having to take steps backward if the situation worsens. However, Salvador Pero, an expert in public health argues that “the prospects are good, as many are vaccinated”. 

According to the latest stats, 86 percent of people in Spain have been fully vaccinated. 

What is the epidemiological situation in Spain right now? 

In the last 14 days, Spain has recorded 505.9 Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Tuesday April 19th there were 5,635 patients hospitalised for Covid-19 in the country, 15 percent more than a week ago. In the ICU however, admissions continue to fall. According to the latest health report, 345 people are in intensive care, 23 fewer than seven days earlier.

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COVID-19 RULES

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Spain on Saturday eased Covid entry rules for unvaccinated tourists from outside the European Union, in a boost for the key tourism sector ahead of the peak summer holidays.

Spain eases Covid entry for unvaccinated tourists

Until now travellers from outside the bloc — including Spain’s main tourism market Britain — could only enter with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.

But as of Saturday visitors from outside of the EU will also be allowed to enter Spain with a negative Covid test result, the transport ministry said in a statement.

PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test 24 hours prior to departure.

Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the “new phase of the pandemic” meant the country was able to relax the rules by equating non-EU travellers with those of the bloc.

“This is excellent news, much awaited by the tourism sector, which will make it easier for tourists outside of Europe to visit us during the high season,” she added in the statement.

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from submitting any type of certificate.

With sunny beaches and a rich architectural heritage, Spain was the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, with 83.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

But international travel restrictions related to the pandemic brought Spain’s tourism sector to its knees in 2020 as it welcomed just 19 million tourists.

The figure rose to 31.1 million in 2021, far below the government forecast of 45 million arrivals.

READ ALSO: Spain lifts Covid-19 checks at French border

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