The Spanish region of Galicia has banned smoking in public places over concerns that it increases the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus.
From today, the ban will come into force for anyone who is unable to maintain a two-metre safe distance in the streets or in public spaces such as sidewalk cafes, restaurants and bars.
The ban will not only apply to tobacco smokers but also those who use e-cigarettes and hookah pipes which are popular in Spanish bars and nightclubs.
Although Galicia in the north-west of the country is the first to introduce the new measures, it is thought that others are also considering adopting the ban including Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León.
The new measures were recommended by the Spanish Society for Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR) in a bid to avoid further spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The move was also backed up by a research report by the health ministry published last month which showed a link between smoking and an increased risk of spreading the virus.
The report suggested that there was a heightened risk due to smokers and vapers not wearing masks and the spread of droplets when smokers exhaled.
Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Regional President of Galicia told the press conference, "Smoking with no limits....with people close by and without any social distancing poses a high risk of infection.”
Alberto Fernández Villar, member of the clinical committee advising the government said, “We know that this is an unpopular measure for smokers, but I believe we are in an exceptional situation."
Data which was published by the Galician regional health department suggested that there had been 827 active cases in the region on Wednesday, an increase of 87 on the previous day.
The country has seen a spike in Coronavirus infections in the last few weeks with just 150 new daily cases registered in June to more than 1,500 in August. The health ministry recorded 1,690 new cases on Wednesday which increased the country’s overall figures to over 330,000 cases.
In the UK, a survey showed that around one million people had already given up smoking since the pandemic began after government data suggested that smokers were more at risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Those who are overweight are also thought to be more at risk from the impact of COVID-19, with the government recently running a campaign to encourage citizens to lose weight in order to mitigate the risks of the virus.
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