Tourism sector in Spain indignant about stricter mandatory masks

by Lorraine Williamson
mandatory masks

The tourism sector in Spain is ready for better news than mandatory masks imposed this week for all outdoor areas. The opposition of interest groups against this in their view pointless measure is therefore great.

There is a fear beach tourists will choose another destination to enjoy the sun and sea without having to cover their faces. “At a time when thousands and thousands of jobs are being lost in our sector, they are turning the beach into a field hospital”, says Vice President José Luis Zoreda of the tourism advocacy organisation Exceltur.

No attention to the sector 

Moreover, the Spanish government would have taken this measure without having consulted the various interest groups. They are now highly outraged by the measure.  After a lost Semana Santa, they had pinned their hopes for the coming summer season. Furthermore, it does not stop at the mouth masks obligation. A PCR test was also made mandatory this week for all foreign travellers who come to Spain by car. “We would have preferred tourism to have had a place on the polictical agenda as well,” says Zoreda.

The fear of the impact the mandatory masks has on the arrival of tourists is not unfounded. The Association of Hotel Chains in the Balearic Islands says, shortly after the introduction of the masking obligation on the beach last year, the cancellations of foreign tourists poured in.

Request for adjustment of the measure 

Regional Minister Patricia Gómez of Public Health has submitted to the Inter-territorial Council the question to amend the measure. She believes it is not necessary for a group from one household to wear a mask at the beach or by the pool.  As long as sufficient distance is kept from other bathers.

The lack of understanding from the sector is also based on the assumed uselessness of the measure. “When you walk around, wearing a mouth mask makes sense. But not if you lie on a beach chair and respect the social distance. Many people would prefer to stay at home,” says Manuel Villafaina of the Association for Entrepreneurs of the Beaches of Málaga.

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Yet not everyone is equally pessimistic about the coming summer months. Iván Periano, President of the Association of Chiringuitos in Cádiz is convinced that the beaches will be full in high season, with the mandatory masks or without. “We all have to keep realising what kind of situation we are in, which is why I don´t believe people will stay at home for a duty to mask.” says Periano.

Measure useful or not? 

The key question is, of course, whether wearing a mouth mask outdoors, with sufficient social distance, contributes to inhibiting the spread of virus. Many epidemiologists have spoken negatively about the effect of this measure. According to them, there is no scientific evidence that wearing face protection in the open air would provide more protection.

“The pandemic fatigue is now also reflected in pointless measures that are being taken. Imposing a masking duty if there is sufficient distance will only generate resistance and people will not fulfill this duty. In this way, the government is losing confidence in the policy pursued,” tweeted Alberto García Salido, intensivist at the University Hospital Niño Jesús in Madrid.

Stimulating outdoor living 

Epidemiologist and assistant professor Alex Arenas also finds the duty of masking to be absurd. “Outdoor life should be stimulated. The chance of contamination outside is 20 times smaller than inside. The Ministry of Health has completely lost its way and the policy pursued is only moderately scientifically substantiated,” he says.

“If a measure is difficult to explain, it is even more difficult to comply with,” says microbiologist Ignacio López-Goñi of the University of Navarra. “You have to minimise measures that limit our basic freedoms. Moreover, they must be easy to implement. And above all, easy to explain,” he says. According to López-Goñi, people understand very well that at work, for example, wearing a mouth mask is useful. People will only be willing to obey regulations if they see the point of doing so.

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