Employers can decide whether masks should be worn in the workplace. / sur

Masks will no longer be compulsory inside buildings in Spain from Wednesday

Exceptions include medical centres, care homes and public transport while employers will have the right to decide whether to make masks obligatory in the workplace

ÁLVARO SOTO Madrid

Face masks will no longer be compulsory inside buildings from 20 April, although this is being treated as a general rule and there will be some exceptions. The decision to lift the mask rule is being welcomed by some but treated with caution by others, who believe it is still too soon.

One reason for doubting whether this is the right time to lift the requirement is that, months ago, the Ministry of Health said it would make the move when the cumulative incidence of Covid-19 cases had dropped below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, or possibly 100. However, the figure for the over-60s, the only statistic to have been measured since the end of March, will be around 400 per 100,000 inhabitants on Wednesday. The most recent figure, issued last Tuesday, was 435.42.

The other indicator, the number of people in hospital, is also being treated with scepticism by some. Although the risk level is still officially low, the number of people admitted to hospital has been rising in recent weeks and the number of patients in intensive care is no longer dropping.

And of course, this was the first time since the pandemic began that the Easter processions have taken place, and the crowds and risk of contagion could mean an increase in positive Covid cases in the next 15 to 20 days. In fact, the Ministry of Health wanted to lift the mask rule before Easter, but experts persuaded them that the figures indicated that they should wait.

On 6 April, when she made the announcement, Health Minister Carolina Darias insisted that the time is right to make this move, due to the way the pandemic is evolving and because of Spain’s high vaccination rate: 92.5 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid, she said. So from Wednesday, masks will only be compulsory in medical centres and hospitals, care homes and on public transport.

However, on Saturday Darias also confirmed that companies will have the right to make masks obligatory in their workplace if they so wish, and she said they will still have to be worn in pharmacies and blood transfusion centres because those are considered medical environments. Masks will not be obligatory for teachers or pupils, unless they are vulnerable.

It is not yet known whether masks will have to be worn at church services or in sports stadiums, but this will be decided before Wednesday. Darias has also confirmed that the authorities will still be recommending “responsible use” of masks when 1.5-metre social distance cannot be maintained and in places without adequate ventilation.