Spanish parliament to debate on face masks on Wednesday

by Deborah Cater
Debate over face masks in outdoor areas

The use of the mask outdoors remains one of the major points of discussion among authorities. On Wednesday, the Spanish congress will debate the decree on the use of face masks.

From 26 June, the face mask obligation in outdoor areas was lifted; even though use of the mask is legally required until the end of the pandemic. Several autonomous communities are now demanding the return obligatory masks in public outdoor areas even when distances can be maintained.

The Council of Ministers approved the decree-law on June 24 to abolish mask wearing when the safe distance of 1.5 meters can be maintained. Today, parliament is due to vote on validating the decree. Precisely at a time when the incidence is explosively rising all over Spain due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

As enshrined in the law, the mandatory nature of face masks will be discussed in an extraordinary plenary session marked by doubts about how various political groups will vote.

Adding to this uncertainty is that the Constitutional Court last week declared the first state of alarm unconstitutional.

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Fifth wave hitting hard

During these last weeks, and despite the vaccination campaign progressing well, the fifth wave is hitting Spain harder every day. Key indicators are escalating. Faced with this new reality, several regions have reversed the de-escalation and re-imposed restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

Therefore, the debate is expected to be fierce. Many political groups will demand the government reintroduce legal cover to the measures, in order to prevent the regional courts from reaching different judgments after reviewing specific measures.

Basque country and Andalucia in favour of masks

Basque President Íñigo Urkullu sent a letter to Pedro Sánchez requesting the decree be amended to masks mandatory again. Andalucia – where the PP and Ciudadanos rule in coalition – has also joined this request.

Face masks still mandatory

Responding to a question about Urkullu’s letter, government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez said the mask is still mandatory in all circumstances, except outdoors when there is a safety distance of 1.5 meters. A position also expressed by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, after the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System. “The masks are still mandatory in our country and are no longer so only in very specific cases,” Darias assured.

In turn, Isabel Rodríguez pointed out the autonomous regions still have a “margin” of action to stop the fifth wave.

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