María Gardó / Cristian Reino
Valencia / Barcelona
Sunday, 7 January 2024, 19:17
From Friday 5 January, facemasks have become compulsory in hospitals and health centres in Valencia, Catalonia and Murcia. The health departments of these regions have decided to take the step due to the increase in the number of flu, Covid-19 and respiratory infections.
The latest weekly surveillance report of ARIs and SARI: Influenza, Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses for 2023 showed an overall rate of acute respiratory infection in primary care of 908.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants; the previous week the figure was 806 cases.
In Catalonia facemasks will have to be worn in hospitals, outpatient clinics and social and health centres. The regional government is also due to ask the natonal Ministry of Health, at Monday's meeting of the inter-territorial council, to reactivate automatic sick leave, as in the time of the Covid pandemic.
Meanwhile, in Murcia, the measure will apply in hospitals, health centres, primary care emergency services and clinics in the region. The regional minister of Health, Juan José Pedreño, said that "with this measure we want to protect all patients and professionals. We also encourage people to wear a mask in any area when they have symptoms of suffering from a respiratory illness, to avoid infecting other people".
The Valencia region has also taken the same measure and has already established the protocol to be followed with regard to the use of masks, which will be compulsory in the following cases:
- Symptomatic people in shared spaces
- Professionals attending symptomatic cases
- Hospital and primary care emergencies
- In places where patients and relatives are concentrated, such as waiting rooms.
- In other situations generally aimed at protecting vulnerable people, the health department management, based on their own protocols and on the recommendations of the preventive medicine services, may establish the obligatory use of the mask in addition to the established indications.
In Aragón the regional ministry of Health issued an internal instruction on Friday to make facemasks mandatory for professionals who provide direct care to users in health and social-health centres, and their deployment is "highly recommended" for the rest of the workers and citizens as a whole, especially in closed places or where people are at an emergency site.
Acute respiratory infections in Aragón during the last week of 2023 amounted to 1,184 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while the incidence of influenza stood at 167.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with the peak not being expected for three or four weeks.
At the national level, the minister of Health, Mónica García, has called an extraordinary inter-territorial council of the National Health System (CISNS) to discuss with all the regional executives "the respiratory virus peaks". The minister hopes that this meeting, to be held on Monday 8 January, will help to "unify criteria" in all the regions in relation to the way in which each one manages the situation.
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