CORONAVIRUS

Face masks will still be obligatory in Spain after the state of alarm

A draft decree being prepared by the government includes fines of up to €100 for people who do not wear the protective equipment in closed public spaces

Passers-by wearing masks in Seville on Friday.
Passers-by wearing masks in Seville on Friday.PACO PUENTES / EL PAÍS

Face masks are here to stay. Not only are they obligatory in Spain at the moment, while the state of alarm emergency measures are still in place, but they will also continue to be in the future, in the so-called “new normality,” until the government declares the coronavirus crisis to be completely over.

A draft decree for the new normality, which the executive is currently debating with Spain’s regions and is due to be approved on Tuesday by the Cabinet, includes obligatory use of masks in closed public spaces where a safe distance of 1.5-2 meters cannot be observed, and also fines of up to €100 for people who are not wearing them. The decree also leaves open the possibility of regulating their use in the open air.

According to the text, masks will have to be used on all forms of transport, including in public vehicles with up to nine passengers, such as taxis or private hire vehicles. In the case of ferries and other passenger vessels, masks will not be obligatory in cabins. The decree also specifies that people with any kind of respiratory disease or breathing difficulty will not have to wear the protective equipment.

Airlines and other transport companies will have to hold the details of all passengers for a month including where they sat so that they can be identified

The draft decree sets out the general lines for the use of masks but now these powers will pass to the regional governments, who will have to set out the details. Spain is currently in an asymmetrical deescalation process, and the final stages will see control handed over from Madrid to the region’s governments.

The text of the decree specifies other measures such as obligatory distances in the workplace, as well as the requirements for airlines and other transport companies to hold the details of all passengers for a month including where they sat so that they can be identified in the case of a positive coronavirus case being confirmed.

The decree will also require the regions to offer guarantees of hospital bed capacity and the ability to carry out PCR tests to detect coronavirus cases. “The health system will have to guarantee capacity to respond if there are rises in infections and the resulting rise in case numbers,” it reads. “To do so, it must have in place, or have access to, or have the capacity to, install between 1.5 and two intensive care beds for every 10,000 inhabitants, and between 37 and 40 beds for the seriously ill for every 10,000 inhabitants, in a maximum time frame of five days.”

Companies will have to “adapt the layout of work spaces, the organization of shifts and working conditions”

There are also general rules for the workplace in the decree. Companies will have to “adapt the layout of work spaces, the organization of shifts and working conditions so that a minimum safe interpersonal distance of between 1.5 and two meters between employees can be guaranteed. When this is not possible, staff should be provided with protective equipment that is appropriate for the level of risk.”

For schools and other places of learning, an issue that is subject to intense debate between the government and the regions, the decree sets out very generic rules. And for commercial premises, the text takes a similar line: “The adoption of organizational measures must be taken to avoid crowds and guarantee that customers and employees maintain a safe distance of between 1.5 and two meters. When it is not possible to maintain this safe distance, adequate hygiene measures must be observed in order to prevent the risks of infection.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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