File photograph of a busy street in Madrid. / OSCAR CHAMORRO

Spain set to lift the mandatory use of masks outdoors order this week

The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has confirmed government ministers will meet on Tuesday to approve the Royal Decree that will eliminate the coronavirus control measure on the streets, possibly as soon as Wednesday

ÁLVARO SOTO

The wearing of a mask outdoors will no longer be mandatory in Spain before the end of this week. On Tuesday, 8 February, ministers will meet to approve a Royal Decree that will lift the obligation, the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has confirmed.

The measure will come into force immediately after the Royal Decree is published in the BOE Official State Gazette, which could happen as soon as Wednesday, 9 February, according to sources.

Just two days ago, Spain's Minister of Health assured that the obligation to wear masks outdoors was a "temporary" measure and their withdrawal was getting "closer".

The mask has been the most symbolic restriction of the pandemic, and the one that generates the most controversy due to the lack of scientific evidence that justifies it.

At the last meeting of the Interterritorial Council Health meeting between the Ministry of Health officials and the regions there was a wide divide about use of the mask outdoors. Madrid, Catalonia, Castilla y León and Galicia demanded an end to the regulation, while the Valencian region, Cantabria, Andalucía and the Basque Country insisted on maintaining it until the coronavirus cumulative incidence rate falls to lower levels.

Some experts have highlighted that the mandatory use of masks outdoors is not one of the most effective pandemic measures and it has been a controversial rule since it was resumed at the end of December.

The epidemiologist and paediatrician Quique Bassat said that the decision to force the use of a mask outdoors had been of a “cosmetic” nature. “When the sixth wave broke out, everyone was asking for something to be done,” said Bassat, who believes that it is now “reasonable” to remove this restriction.