Madrid. The Spanish Health minister, Salvador Illa, this week announced new regulations over the use of masks in public areas, in force from Thursday (21 May).
The use of face masks is now compulsory in Spain in closed public spaces as well as in open areas where keeping a distance of two metres is not possible.
The new rule 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 [fabric] or surgical kind." Scarves will not be able to be worn as substitutes.
The measure will be in force throughout the state of alarm (currently to 7 June) and "its possible extensions". Offenders can be fined.
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 government's decree does not specify further details, although the ministry has endorsed the interpretation that this exemption can be applied to individuals practising sports such as runners and cyclists, even though they pass through areas where keeping a distance is impossible.
Neither are people expected to wear a mask if eating or drinking in a bar or restaurant. Use in a vehicle is only required if with people outside your household.
The minister said 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. This caused concern with some poverty action groups over the additional cost.
A price ceiling of 96 cents was fixed in April for basic surgical masks, sold in pharmacies.