The Spanish Ministry of Health has decided to keep the mandatory wearing of masks indoors until after the Easter holidays.
There has been much speculation as to when this ruling would come to end but on Wednesday at the meeting of the International Health Council, the Spanish Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, announced that the government "will approve the end of the mandatory mask-wearing rule" at the Council of Ministers on April 19.
This would mean that from April 20 it will no longer be mandatory to wear a facemask indoors in Spain. However, she agreed to follow health experts' advice when it came to deciding whether or not wearing face masks in hospitals, nursing homes and on public transport, should remain mandatory.
Last week, epidemiologists were concerned when the head of Spain’s Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, suggested that the Spanish health authorities would choose April 12 or 13, to end the indoor rule, as this would be during the Easter holidays.
Their concern was that by allowing face masks to be removed from all indoor settings in a period of increased travel and social gatherings, a seventh wave of the virus would sweep the country.
The more cautious health experts in Spain, have said that they believe that the wearing of face masks indoors should in fact remain mandatory ‘until at least this summer, when the fortnightly infection rate falls below 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants or when there is no longer community transmission.’
Speaking to Hora 14 about the decision to abolish the mandatory mask indoors rule, epidemiologist of the FISABIO foundation in Valencia, Salvador Peiró said
"It is a reasonable measure in the situations we are in and, furthermore, this deadline until April 19 gives us time to see the evolution.
“We are where we are," he explained. "The pandemic is not over, but we are in an immunological situation in which serious illness has been greatly reduced. We also have to protect the most vulnerable people and in fact this strategy contemplates it."
He added that "In many workplaces, it doesn't have to be mandatory, but in centres where there is no ventilation or they are very closed, then yes.
"COVID is becoming flu and the flu has seasons that are very COVID. We are in a situation where we can stop doing many things that we did when we were not vaccinated. At this time, it may be that mortality from COVID is lower than many flu seasons.”
The Minister of Health will be discussing the decision with regional health ministers on Thursday, although at this present time, not all regions are in agreement that the rule should be lifted.
The Basque region and Andalucia believe the ruling should stay in place, however, Catalonia Madrid and the Canary Islands want to see it removed.
Juanma Moreno, the president of the Junta de Andalucía, says this move should not be made for at least “a month and a half” after Easter and the April Fair in Seville, because “it is possible that there will be a significant increase in cases because of the crowds.”
Over the past three weeks, the Covid incidence rate in Spain has plateaued at around 450 cases per 100,000 people.
The Spanish government still wants to treat the virus like a flu and removing the indoor face mask rule is another step in the right direction.
Countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have all removed the mandatory wearing of face masks indoors and Spain wants to follow suit.
The wearing of face masks indoors has been mandatory for almost a year, since May 2020.
Image Credit: @sanidadgob
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