‘Very possible’ mandatory wearing of masks in open air to be abolished

by Deborah Cater
Mandatory wearing of masks in open air may soon be a thing of the past

MADRID – Fernando Simón considers it ‘very possible’ that soon the mandatory wearing of masks in the open air will be ‘relaxed’. The director of the Spanish corona crisis centre sees opportunities through vaccinations and low incidence.

The Ministry of Health is again considering lifting some corona measures, as the virus incidence in Spain is decreasing and the percentage of people vaccinated increases. Fernando Simón, director of the Centre for the Coordination of Health Warnings and Emergencies (CCAES), acknowledged this on Monday. He announced “it is quite possible” that the use of outdoor masks will change “in not many days”.

“I am not going to give a date, but it is true that it will not be long before we make clear proposals to remove the mask in specific situations,” said Simón. He added, “We will still have to be careful and it does not mean that the rest of the measures will not be enforced.”

He continued: “It is not possible to abolish the obligation to mask or to keep a safe distance between all groups in society. Steps will be taken in areas where the epidemiological situation is favourable enough. A situation that is gradually becoming more homogeneous across the country. “

Relaxation of restrictions depends on incidence levels

The further relaxation of restrictions, Simón said, will depend on how the accumulated incidence evolves. On Monday, the average measured over 14 days in Spain was 152 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This incidence is just above the maximum limit of the average risk category, which, together with other indicators, is an incidence of less than 150.

The last time Spain fell below this figure was on March 30th. Subsequently, the numbers slowly increased to a subdued fourth corona wave. To calculate the risk, other variables are also taken into account, such as IC occupancy, which is still a high risk. Currently, 18.6% of beds are occupied by patients with covid.

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Simón has set the requirement that Spain must be within the medium risk limits before being able to lift the mandatory wearing of masks in the open air. He did not clarify whether this relaxation could apply simultaneously for all of Spain or only for specific regions with a low incidence.

“It is not good to give dates, we can sketch situations better. In a month we will see very favourable figures for relaxing many measures. Some can be relaxed sooner, as long as others are maintained,” said Simón.

Masks not necessary where there are no crowds

The director of CCAES has so far avoided being too clear about the conditions under which people no longer have to put on their masks outside. Many health professionals have been asking for it for some time as there is no evidence that masks outside without crowds gathering have any effect.

However, Spain still needs to assess whether the end of the state of alarm has had any impact on the number of infections in Spain. According to Simón, it is still too early to judge this. An increase in incidence in the coming days cannot be ruled out. The statistics showing the effect of the end of many restrictions will not be clear until at least this week.

Finally, there is another major hitch. The Spanish parliament passed a law making face masks mandatory in all public places both inside and outside for the duration of the pandemic. Thus, Spain would need to pass a new law or royal decree to annul the previous one.

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