The government says masks will soon be a thing of the past. / EFE

Spain's Ministry of Health sticks to its plan to end the indoor face mask rule, even though Covid infections are going up

Minister Carolina Darias insists that the restriction will end “sooner rather than later” even if the number of daily infections stay the same

ÁLVARO SOTO Madrid

The unexpected rise in the coronavirus cumulative incidence rate in Spain will not affect the Ministry of Health’s plans. At the conference of regional presidents on Sunday the Minister, Carolina Darias, insisted that the obligation to wear a mask inside buildings will still come to an end, “sooner rather than later”. Nor will there be any changes to the new way the virus is monitored, which the Public Health Committee is due to approve this week and will focus only on the most serious cases in vulnerable people, and new outbreaks.

However, the situation indicates that caution is needed. For the first time since Spain reached the peak of the sixth wave on 24 January the incidence went up on Friday. It was only a slight rise, and may have been due to the Carnival celebrations the week before, but the point is that this indicator has been stuck at 430 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days (which is high-risk according to the Covid ‘traffic light’ system) and the number of daily cases in Spain has not dropped below 18,000 in the past three months.

All this is also happening in a worrying European context. On Thursday Germany registered its highest number of contagions during the pandemic, with 260,000 infections on one day and an incidence rate of 2,700, and the Minister of Health there, Karl Lauterbach, said the country is in a “critical” situation. Meanwhile in Austria the incidence has reached 4,600 cases; in the Netherlands it is 4,000 and France, the UK and Italy are all above 900.