The Spanish Cabinet on Thursday approved a royal decree that allows people to go unmasked in outdoor spaces where it is possible to maintain a safe distance of 1.5 meters between people from different social bubbles. The new rules come into effect on Saturday, June 26.
The royal decree replaces the law approved on March 29 that made it mandatory to wear a face mask in both outdoor and indoor public spaces, regardless of the social distance between people, until the end of the pandemic. Under the new, more flexible rules, residents of care homes no longer need to wear a mask if 80% of the center is fully vaccinated – a threshold met by nearly every residence in Spain. It will, however, still be mandatory for workers and visitors to care homes to wear a face covering.
It will continue to be mandatory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, on public transportation and outdoors when there are crowds or a safe distance from other people cannot be maintained. For this reason, citizens will need to continue to carry face masks with them in case it becomes necessary, for instance when entering a crowded street or a store.
The rules on the use of face masks may be further eased as the Covid-19 vaccination drive progresses and the number cases fall. But it is likely that the coverings will remain mandatory in indoor spaces for months to come.
At the beginning of the pandemic, European health authorities did not believe face masks were necessary, but the measure quickly became a key tool to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Initially, it was thought that asymptomatic cases were not infectious, and face masks were not recommended for them.
But over time it was discovered that asymptomatic cases play a key role in transmission. It was also discovered that aerosols that remain suspended in the air also spread the virus – not just droplets as had been previously thought.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) changed its criteria on April 8, 2020, when it admitted for the first time that face masks could play an important role in curbing the pandemic. Two days later, the Spanish Health Ministry began to recommend their use on public transportation and closed spaces where social distancing could not be maintained.
English version by Melissa Kitson.