Facemasks will no longer be compulsory in outdoor spaces from Thursday

OBLIGATORY use of facemasks in outdoor spaces could be dropped as early as Thursday, according to government plans.

Speaking to Cadena Ser radio on Friday morning, Health Minister, Carolina Darias, confirmed that the government was planning to remove the compulsory use of facemasks outdoors due to the improving coronavirus situation. Following three consecutive weeks which have seen a decrease in all the epidemiological indicators, the government has decided the time is right to remove the restriction.

According to Health Ministry data reported by news agency EFE, the accumulated incidence rate for coronavirus on Friday was 2,420 cases per 100,000 population. The previous Friday it had been 3,078.

New infections are also in decline, with numbers of daily recovered patients greater than new cases, There has also been an easing in the pressure on hospitals. All the indicators show that the peak of the sixth wave (fifth in the Valencia region) has passed and there is a clear decrease in all regions and all age groups,

Darias explained that the measure would be discussed at a meeting of the regional health departments on Monday 7 February and ratified by the cabinet on Tuesday, to be subsequently published in the BOE (the Official State Gazette) on Wednesday and it would most likely come into effect on Thursday 10 February, “if all goes well”.

Darias also said that the compulsory use of facemasks in outdoor public spaces, where 1.5 m of distance cannot be maintained, had been reintroduced on 24 December as a temporary measure given the exponential growth in cases and the uncertainty of the Omicron variant, especially prior to the festive Christmas period, a time of greater social interaction. She defended the decision saying it had been “a measure of prudence during the strictly necessary time until the indicators suggested a different measure.”

Spanish Health Minister, Carolina Darias, speaking at a previous press conference in January (Ministerio de Sanidad)

Changes to restrictions across Europe

Spain is not alone in easing restrictions, especially relating to outside spaces. Denmark, however, is at the forefront, having removed, from 1 February, all the measures which had been brought in for their fourth wave. EFE reported that the authorities no longer consider Omicron to be a “danger” for its health system or its inhabitants and as such, Danes no longer need to wear facemasks indoors, all restaurant restrictions have disappeared and nightclubs have reopened,

In the United Kingdom facemasks are now optional in both indoor and outdoor spaces and a negative covid test or vaccination certificate is no longer needed to attend large events like concerts.

In France facemasks are no longer necessary outdoors if 1m distance can be maintained, but are still required indoors. Italy plans similar measures to France but with the condition of indoor use of a FFP2 mask.

Portugal still requires facemasks to be worn in the street and in Germany masks are necessary in all situations where people are in “close contact”.

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