On Monday evening the Spanish Health Ministry announced that the use of face masks in Spain will be compulsory in both closed spaces and when outside where the safe distancing of two meters cannot be respected.
The central government and regional leaders held a meeting on Monday afternoon during a session of the International Council of the National Health System (SNS) to discuss the proposal to extend the use of face masks.
An agreement was reached to make the wearing of masks compulsory in closed places, such as businesses and on the street “if it is not possible to guarantee a safe minimum distance of two meters”, according to a Health Ministry press release.
[Update] The new measures will come into effect from Thursday, May 21 and will extend to the duration of the State of Alarm which is currently due to end on May 24. This date may well be extended further to June 7 in the coming days.
Under the new rules, anyone over six years of age must wear a face mask in public where it is not possible to socially distance. Children between 3 and 5 years are still recommended to wear them where possible.
Those with respiratory illnesses or other health reasons are exempt from wearing them.
The wearing of face masks has been obligatory when using public transport in Spain, since May 4, when lockdown measures started to ease and people were allowed to go outside for walks and exercise.
Confusion over the wearing of masks has however been apparent since the COVID-19 health crisis started.
At the beginning of all this, the use of face masks for people showing no symptoms was not recommended by the authorities. This then changed and it was recommended that face masks should be worn. A further decision was then made and people were told that masks should be worn on public transport and this then became compulsory.
Until now, it has only been a “recommendation” that face masks should be used in areas where it is impossible to keep a two-meter distance. However, in the coming days, a ministerial order to extend their use will be published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), making the compulsory use official. The same publication will also clarify under what conditions face masks must be worn when out on the streets.
The masks that are currently recommended for public use are the surgical and hygienic masks, this is because they are far more effective at preventing the spread of the disease if a person is infected.
At the very beginning of the deadly pandemic, it was believed by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and the World Health Organization (WHO), that asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 had very little chance of spreading the disease. This is why face masks were reserved for only those showing symptoms, as well as healthcare workers.
However as time has passed, and professionals have learnt more about the disease, it has become obvious that COVID-19 can be passed on in the days prior to a person developing the symptoms or even when having no symptoms at all.
Last week when a question was asked regarding the use of face masks, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, Fernando Simon said “I’m not going to give an opinion for or against them being obligatory. There is now a high recommendation for anyone who goes onto the street to wear one. Making them obligatory is to overact a bit, it might be okay, but perhaps we should act in other areas. The best mask is a two-meter distance.”
He, like many other health experts, has also warned that for many people who suffer from things like anxiety, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease or any other respiratory restriction issues, wearing a face mask may be a problem.
You can find out more about our health tips for wearing face masks here https://www.healthplanspain.com/blog/health-tips/944-health-tips-wearing-face-masks.html