Government makes face masks compulsory in places where social distancing is impossible

Salvador Illa on Tuesday.
Salvador Illa on Tuesday. / EFE
  • The order comes into force on Thursday 21 May and children under six are exempt

The Spanish Health minister, Salvador Illa, has announced new regulations concerning the use of masks in public areas in force from Thursday 21 May.

Published in the BOE (official state gazette) on Wednesday, a new order will make the use of face masks compulsory in closed public spaces as well as in open areas where keeping a distance of two metres is impossible.

This is in addition to the obligation to wear a mask on public transport already in force.

The ruling allows "any type of mask that covers mouth and nose, but preferably the hygiene or surgical kind." Scarves will not be able to be worn as substitutes.

The measure will be in force throughout the state of alarm and "its possible extensions". On Wednesday this was due to be extended until 7 June.

Children under the age of six will not be obliged to wear a mask although the Health ministry "recommends" their use among three to five-year-olds.

Also exempt are people with "respiratory difficulties that could be aggravated by the use of a mask" as well as those with other health conditions that could be worsened or a "disability or dependence that causes behavioural alterations that make the use of a mask inviable".

Masks do not have to be worn during "activities whose nature makes them incompatible" with their use. The text does not specifying further, alhough the ministry has endorsed the interpretation that this can be applied to individual practising sports such as runners and cyclists, even though they pass through areas where keeping a distance is impossible.

Illa said on Tuesday that the authorities would not be giving out free supplies of masks and it would be up to the general public to provide their own.

A maximum price of 96 cents was fixed in April for the basic surgical type mask available from pharmacies.