What if...?

A few weeks ago we were patting ourselves on the back for being good, staying at home and bringing the Covid-19 case figures right down. We went out, taking the required precautions, heard talk of second waves and new spikes but were still feeling far too positive to take it that seriously.

Now we've gone back to counting cases and the numbers in Spain are going up again. In fact the 390 cases officially reported on Wednesday was the highest figure in nearly two months.

Regional governments around the country now have the responsibility to impose rules and regulations to help control the spread of coronavirus.

Some have been faster than others to make face masks compulsory, but most identified a need to go one step further than the central government's previous ruling and remove the "unless social distance can be observed" clause from the obligation.

This week, as the conservative PP-run Junta de Andalucía approved and announced its new face mask rules, I was reminded of those press conferences back during the different phases of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Now those who were so quick to criticise the way the Socialist government tried and failed to find an answer to questions about how the regulations could be applied in every possible scenario are finding out for themselves how complicated it is.

Tuesday's information about when exactly people must wear a mask was hardly crystal clear on some issues. The problem is that when you are passing legislation that affects absolutely everybody - and in the case of Andalucía we're talking about more than eight million people - it's very difficult to find a formula that can be applied to everybody's own circumstances.

If I'm out for a run and then start walking, do I need to put my mask on? If I'm on the beach with my family, and a friend we haven't seen for weeks comes to sit with us, should we put our masks on? And what if I bump into an acquaintance when I'm out running and we run together for a bit? What if I put my mask down on the table to drink my coffee and the wind blows it away? And what if ...? What if...? What if...?

Well actually there is a formula that exasperated politicians on all sides resort to after the umpteenth request for clarification reveals flaws in what at first seemed like a logical new rule: common sense and responsibility!

OK, so relying solely on the responsibility of an entire population to hold off a killer virus clearly doesn't work, and someone has to make a law to begin with. But once a rule has been made and the message that Covid-19 is still a major risk has been delivered, it's perhaps not so bad for the lawmakers to ask for responsibility on the part of the general public.

Their challenge is make people see a face mask as a tool for saving lives, and not just something to save you from being landed with a 100-euro fine.