During a walk on a Barcelona beach today, most people didn’t seem to care much about whether or not a mask can be worn there.
Some people sunbathed, others jogged, and a daring soul even braved the icy water to windsurf.
It was a typical lunchtime scene where most people escaped normal life for a short time.
Some people walked with their masks at half mast, under the chin ready to be replaced if necessary, while others had dispensed with them entirely and some others had their faces completely covered.
Perhaps the reason for this mixed image is the confusion that has reigned for the past week on the subject of face coverings.
Let’s go back a week or so when the Spanish government announced that people would have to wear a mask on the beach because Covid-19 contagion rates were starting to rise again.
It seems that the left-wing government of Spain had hit something like a raw nerve without knowing it.
Do many of these Madrilenian politicians ever come to the beach?
After all, the beach is where most Spaniards forget about real life and can feel the sand between their toes for at least a few weeks a year.
Pandemic or no pandemic, telling them they had to cover themselves when they got to the beach did not go well.
“If they force us to wear masks on the beach, it will look like a hospital ward,” said Nadia Lopéz, who was enjoying lunch on the beach when I spoke to her.
“It will put people off, or that or people will just ignore it.”
The regional governments of the Balearic Islands and then of Catalonia – note, both great tourist destinations – rebelled, saying that they would not enforce this proposal.
This would not only be bad news for the Spanish, but if tourists arrive this summer, it will be a disaster.
It’s no wonder, then, that British newspapers have picked up on this at lightning speed.
Millions of Britons have been desperate to reach the golden beaches of Spain as all of our lives have been reduced to living under lock and key.
Now, the government seems to have backtracked, aware of how it could have been too harsh or was simply wrong.
The Spanish government has said today that masks will not be necessary for sunbathing or swimming if social distancing is respected.
After talks between the central government and the 17 regions of Spain, the authorities agreed to modify the law, which means that people can now remove their masks on the beach if they stay in one place “respecting the minimum safety distance of 1 5 meters from the people they don’t live with. ” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
However, anyone walking on the beach must put them back on, the government added.
Roughly translated into the language, most people can understand that this means that it is not necessary to wear a mask when sunbathing or taking a dip in the sea, but it is mandatory for walking.
So what effect do these mixed messages have?
Rafael Bengoa, former director of health systems at the World Health Organization and now co-director of the Institute of Health and Strategy in Bilbao, believes that the Spanish government should explain its decisions more clearly.
“I think the problem is transparency rather than the decision itself: they change the decisions but they don’t explain the scientific reasoning behind them,” he told The Local.
“Trying to please everyone a little creates this kind of ‘politics.’ It does not seem enforceable due to its complexity, besides that it is not the same these days with a probable increase or fourth wave and by July 40-45% of the population should be vaccinated ”.
The confusion of masks is not, of course, the first time that the Spanish government says one thing and then does another.
Stopping the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine just to urge people to use it about a week later has done little to restore public confidence in its use.
Of course, it is easy to hit a government that is dealing with a pandemic that changes shape every day or hour.
However, public trust is surely earned by making the message clear and if a government has to change its policy, back it up with scientific reasons.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism