CORONAVIRUS

Spain’s Balearic Islands to make face masks mandatory in all public spaces except the beach

Nine coronavirus outbreaks have been reported in the archipelago with 42 cases detected and 90 people under surveillance

A worker wearing a protective face mask cleans a sunbed in a pool area of a hotel at Palma beach.
A worker wearing a protective face mask cleans a sunbed in a pool area of a hotel at Palma beach.Enrique Calvo / Reuters

The regional government of Spain’s Balearic Islands has approved a resolution that will make face masks mandatory in all public spaces in the archipelago even when social distancing rules can be respected. The measure will come into effect this weekend, according to sources from the regional government.

The Balearic Islands is the second region to adopt such a measure after Catalonia introduced the mandatory use of face masks on Thursday. The resolution, which will be published in the next days in the Official State Gazette (BOE), will modify the “new normality” decree passed by Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, which sets out the rules for life after the coronavirus lockdown.

Under the region’s resolution, wearing a face mask will be mandatory at all times, both in indoor and outdoor public spaces. Exceptions will be made for the beach, pools, when eating or drinking, while practicing sport and while playing a wind instrument. The regional government has specified that the mask must be worn appropriately, so that it covers both the nose and mouth. Violators of the new rules will receive fines of up to €100. Currently, face masks are only mandatory in spaces where it is not possible to maintain a social distance of 1.5 meters.

The resolution also sets a limit on social gatherings in both private and public spaces, which will be restricted to 70 people in outdoor settings and 30 people in indoor spaces. Organizers of illegal parties that exceed the restrictions on capacity will face fines of up to €60,000, while those who participate in such events and do not wear masks may be fined up to €3,000.

The regional health chief, Patricia Gómez, explained that the move was based on the fact that most coronavirus patients in the Balearic Islands have minor symptoms or are symptomatic. In an interview with the radio station Cadena Ser on Thursday, Gómez said that the archipelago is “very fragile,” adding that the number of visitors to the region was increasing exponentially. The Balearic Islands are a popular tourist destination and were the first destination in Spain to reopen to international visitors.

Gómez also mentioned the results of a coronavirus prevalence study in Spain, which found that only 1.4% of residents in the Balearic Islands had developed antibodies for the virus – below the national average of 5.2%. “The seroprevalence study shows that very few people in the Balearic Islands have contracted the coronavirus,” she said.

The Socialist Party (PSOE) government of premier Francina Armengol is also preparing a plan to put an end to the illegal parties that have erupted over the last days in villas and country homes in the islands, and which required intervention from security forces. In a bid to avoid large crowds, the regional government has prohibited nightclubs and party venues with capacity for over 300 people from reopening. Pubs and nightclubs in the areas of Magaluf, Playa de Palma and Sant Antoni are also banned from reopening, even if they have lower capacity.

According to the latest figures from the regional health service, there are nine active coronavirus outbreaks in the Balearic Islands, with 42 positive cases and 90 people being monitored for having been in contact with a coronavirus patient. Three of the nine outbreaks were detected this week in Mallorca affecting family members with 14 mild or asymptomatic cases, and 32 people under surveillance. In Ibiza, one outbreak was detected with 42 cases and 69 under surveillance.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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