The mandatory use of face covers for Spaniards is back, also outdoors. Spain thus recovers a measure that was already imposed at the beginning of the pandemic and whose effectiveness outside large urban centers some experts doubt.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held a telematic meeting with the presidents of the autonomous regions on Wednesday to discuss restrictions prior to the celebration of Christmas festivities.
Covid-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant have increased sharply over the past three weeks and, although these are mostly mild or asymptomatic cases, some regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country have demanded stricter measures in recent days to tackle what they consider to be a risk for their public health systems.
Pedro Sanchez informed regional leaders that the central government intends to pass at its meeting on Thursday a decree that will reimpose the compulsory use of face masks outdoors. Until now, the mask was only recommended outdoors for cases of crowds of people, in which it is not possible to maintain a safety distance of 1.5 meters between people.
The return to the use of face masks outdoors had been requested by the governments of seven regions. Others, such as the Madrid region, consider it inappropriate.
At the moment, the central government has not announced any further restrictions, for example on time limits or capacity in restaurants and hospitality establishments, as the government of Catalonia also proposed.
The Spanish Government insists on its messages of prudence and tranquility and tries to reduce tension despite the increase in infections due to the Omicron variant.
The government considers that the pressure on the health system is less severe than in previous waves of the epidemic and there are fewer hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units.
The vaccination campaign in Spain has been a great success, with almost 90% of the target population fully vaccinated. Last week ended with a 14-day incidence of 511 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (on Friday).
With these data on the table, the central government is reluctant to impose lockdowns, curfews or further restrictions on social gatherings and economic activity.
At the meeting on Wednesday, the regional authorities also agreed to reinforce the vaccination campaign with a third dose before the end of the year and which will continue at least until the first week of March. By then, the administration of the booster dose to those over 40 is expected to be completed.