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Spain says ‘goodbye’ to outdoor mask while speeding up vaccination campaign

Update: Saturday June 26, 2021 00:00

Posted: 25.06.2021 23:59

First “goodbye” to masks in Spain. After more than a year in which they have become an essential complement, their use is no longer mandatory in outdoor spaces.

Smiles return to the streets which for 13 months have covered half-faces. And with them, fears. With a vaccination in full swing, many people consider that it is not yet time to abandon the pandemic and prefer to wait for greater certainty to get rid of an essential element to contain contagions.

However, this is not what the standard says. The truth is that relaxing its use does not mean you have to do without it. Indeed, there are still many cases in which wearing a mask will be essential, or even a fine otherwise.

For this reason, the health authorities insist: all residents in Spain will have to wear a mask in their hand in order to be able to put it on if necessary.

When do I have to use it?

According to the standard published in the BOE, the mask will continue to be mandatory in outdoor spaces where the interpersonal safety distance (1.5 meters) cannot be guaranteed.

It will also be compulsory in any closed or private public space for public use. That is, in shopping malls, stores, libraries, supermarkets or health centers. Likewise, it will be essential to take it on public transport, including platforms, stations or cable cars.

Likewise, it will be compulsory inside the boats. Not in the cabin or in exterior spaces of the ship if the safe distance can be guaranteed.

The government also details the procedure during mass protests. According to the rule, this will not be compulsory if the participants are seated more than 1.5 meters apart from each other. However, it will be compulsory if the participants are standing or if the safety distance is not respected.

In contrast, the government has added an easing measure at the end of compulsory outdoor use. As of today, seniors in senior centers with more than 80% residents on the full COVID vaccination schedule will no longer need to wear masks. On the other hand, their workers and those who come to visit them will have to do so.

In addition, as indicated in the previous decree, children under the age of six and people with breathing difficulties can do without it in any case, as well as if they carry out an activity which by its very nature prohibits it. use of a mask. , like eating or drinking.

If the mask is not worn in compulsory cases, citizens will be liable to a fine of up to 100 euros.

We are ready?

Spain achieves this easing of measures in the most favorable situation of the whole of 2021. Vaccination allows a large part of the Spanish population to escape the yoke of the virus.

The improvement is noticeable in hospitals and in intensive care beds, which are far beyond their possibilities. The incidence reached nearly 900 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and in the last health report it did not reach 100.

Good data is also evident in hospitals, albeit at a slower pace. Currently, 2,366 patients continue to be admitted for COVID, while 641 have had to be transferred to intensive care.

To all this is added the protection of the most vulnerable. 100% of those over 80, the group most affected by the disease, have already been immunized. Similar figures follow the immediately following band, that of the 70 to 79 year olds, with 96.5% of those immune.

However, despite the evolution of the epidemiological situation, half of the population has not yet received any dose of the vaccine and, therefore, is at risk of contracting the disease.

For this reason, experts ask for caution and maintain the need to have the mask in addition to precautionary measures when one considers that one may be at risk, even when its use is not compulsory.

The virus, weakened outdoors

In addition to the improvement in the data, there is evidence from scientific studies in recent months. Now, a year later, science points to a safer way around the virus: the possibility of contagion outside is extremely lower than inside.

A report from the Ministry of Health dating from the end of 2020 indicates that “the risk inside is significantly higher than outside”. Thus, he specifies that in a follow-up study of 110 cases and contacts without any type of protective measure, “a risk of transmission about 20 times greater indoors than outdoors” was calculated.

Will the variants influence?

Evidence for the behavior of the virus in open spaces may change due to the transmissibility of emerging variants. Currently, of most concern is the Delta, first found in India.

According to the latest scientific studies, this is a particularly transmissible strain. In fact, it is 60% more contagious than Alpha or British, predominant in Spain. However, it is estimated that it is still around 10% of cases in our country.

Another concern with this variant is the efficacy of the vaccines. To be effective against this strain, citizens must be fully immunized, since its effect with a single dose is not enough to protect against possible serious illness.

At this time, it is not known whether removing masks externally could influence greater transmissibility of this strain. For this reason, the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians warns: “The pandemic situation is still present, the coronavirus is still among us and the number of sensitive people continues to be high, let’s be careful and respect the recommendations of the Ministry of Health. authorities.”

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