The Council of Ministers has approved this Tuesday a Royal Decree by which the use of masks will no longer be mandatory in interior spaces as of this Wednesday, after being published in the Official State Gazette (BOE). At a press conference, the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, stressed that it is “an important day in which stages continue to be overcome” of the pandemic, which began more than two years ago.
“It is one more step in the evolution of the pandemic. COVID-19 is still with us, but it is evolving positively and the indicators show a generally low level, stable in most of the territory. We continue to advance cautiously but also from progressivity”, he pointed out.
Darias has insisted that it is the “right time” to take this “very well thought out” measure: “We are in a favorable epidemiological context that allows the use of masks to be made more flexible. It is motivated by the very high vaccination coverage in our country, which it has changed the characteristics of the pandemic, and the severity of the disease has decreased significantly due to the positive impact of the vaccines.”
In addition, the minister has defended the removal of the masks without waiting to see the impact of Holy Week on the evolution of the pandemic. “A year ago we had 21 percent ICU occupancy and today it is 4 percent. There may have been some oscillation in the incidence but there has not been a high increase in hospital occupancy. It is a measure according to people experts from the Alerts Report and had the virtual unanimous vote of the members of the Interterritorial Council”.
Where will we have to continue wearing a mask?
In any case, the Spaniards will not yet completely get rid of the mask, since it will continue to be mandatory in certain environments, “due to the vulnerability” of the people who usually wear them. For example, it will have to continue to be worn in health centers, services and establishments, such as hospitals, health centers, blood transfusion centers or pharmacies.
In hospitals, however, admitted people will be exempt from wearing it when they are in their room. The mask indoors must also be worn in social health centers such as nursing homes, although it will not be mandatory for the elderly but it will be for workers and family members who make visits. Similarly, the mask will still be mandatory in air transport, rail, cable, buses and any type of public medium. On boats, it must be worn when “the distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained”.
“In no case in the educational environment”
Darias has been blunt in stating that the mask “will not be used in any case in school environments.” “It was no longer compulsory in recess and now it will not be in all areas of educational centers”, she has maintained. In the workplace, in the same way, “it will not be mandatory in general”. Darias has pointed out, however, that those responsible for occupational risk prevention in companies may agree on its use “depending on the risk assessment of the job”.
Nor will it be mandatory indoors or outdoors in soccer or basketball games, although the minister has advised “responsible use” in this type of massive event. Despite this “general” removal of the mask, Darias has recommended “responsible use” in the vulnerable population such as those over 60 years of age, immunocompromised people, with some major risk disease, pregnant women or teachers with some vulnerability factor.
It is also recommended for large events, crowds and private gatherings when vulnerable people are present. The Minister of Territorial Policy and spokesperson for the Executive, Isabel Rodríguez, has welcomed the measure, which “has been possible thanks to joint work and a collegiate effort in which the vaccination strategy has had a lot to do.”
“It is a very special day for the Government and all Spaniards in the fight against the virus. We are moving forward in normality. Tomorrow we will be able to take off our masks indoors and show our faces and our smiles,” he applauded.