Healthplan Spain


Spain Reinstates Nationwide Mandatory Mask Use Across Healthcare Facilities Health News

In response to a surge in flu cases and the threat of respiratory viruses, Spain's Ministry of Health has announced the reinstatement of mandatory face mask usage in all healthcare facilities across the country, effective from this Wednesday, January 10. The decision comes after a meeting between the health ministry and regional representatives, where disagreements among regions delayed the final verdict.

Initially, it seemed that regional health departments would have autonomy in deciding whether to reimpose mask mandates. However, the national government has now mandated the use of face masks in all 17 autonomous communities, setting a unified approach to tackle the rising cases of flu, Covid-19, and other respiratory infections.

If this outcome had not been reached, only three regions in Spain—the Valencian Community, Murcia, and Catalonia—had expressed readiness to enforce mandatory face mask usage within all healthcare facilities and socio-health residences. Additionally, Aragón had mandated face masks but solely for professionals working in health centres, hospitals, and nursing homes.

The regions of Galicia, Cantabria, Navarra, Asturias, La Rioja, and Euskadi, chose to confine their stance to recommending the use of masks in health centres and residences, without making it mandatory. And the regions of Madrid, Andalucía, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Extremadura, and Castilla y León, were all inclined to suggest face mask usage exclusively for individuals exhibiting symptoms of respiratory infections.

Spanish Health Minister Mónica García emphasised the importance of masks in protecting both healthcare professionals and patients. She stated, "Since the pandemic, we have learned. We have thought hard about the issue of the mask to protect above all health centres and hospitals, to protect patients as much as (healthcare) professionals.

The wearing of masks is a measure that is effective, common sense, that is backed by scientific evidence and that is welcomed by the general population", highlighting the effectiveness and common-sense nature of the measure, supported by scientific evidence and welcomed by the general population.

The decision follows concerns raised by healthcare professionals about escalating cases of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. Spain, having experienced strict lockdowns during the initial wave of Covid-19 in 2020, had maintained mask mandates until July 2023 in places catering to at-risk populations.

While Garcia expressed support for the move on Friday, the official announcement came after unsuccessful attempts to reach a consensus among regions. The upcoming mandate, however, will not extend to pharmacies, according to the health ministry.

The urgency to reintroduce mandatory mask use arises from a notable increase in flu cases, with a 75 percent rise in positive diagnoses and a 61 percent increase in hospitalisations during the last week of the year. The Minister of Health expressed concern over the potential collapse of the public health system due to the current intensity of the flu epidemic.

The incidence of acute respiratory infections is especially high in regions such as Castilla-La Mancha, which, with 1,709 cases of flu per 100,000 inhabitants, almost doubles the national average (953) and in others such as the Valencian Community (1,500), Asturias (1,318). and Castilla y León (1,209), all of them with diagnosis rates much higher than the rest of the country.

The decision overrides the autonomy of regional authorities, with only a few regions initially willing to declare mandatory mask use. The Minister proposed additional measures, such as a three-day self-certification for minor illnesses, aimed at reducing the burden on the healthcare system.

The government believes that the flu outbreak will continue to get worse until late January. They link the increased severity to low flu vaccination rates and fewer people following preventive measures like wearing masks, not practicing hand hygiene, and using sanitizers. The goal is to stop the spread of respiratory viruses and safeguard public health during the ongoing health crisis.