Friday, July 1

Covid-19: The risks of the end of the outdoor mask | Society

The end of the masks will be the great symbol that consecrates that the Covid epidemic in Spain has ended. But that moment will not yet come on June 26, when this protection will no longer be mandatory outdoors. The mask will continue to accompany Spaniards indoors for months and will have to continue to take it with you when you leave home: at any time it may be necessary, either to enter a shop or on a busy street. Most of the experts consulted by EL PAÍS since the President of the Government announced that you can go down the street with your nose and mouth uncovered agree that the time has come for a certain relaxation, but they also warn that This flexibility can go wrong if the public is not aware that there will be many situations in which masks will continue to be necessary.

Broadly speaking, there are three non-pharmacological measures to prevent covid: the barrier (the mask), ventilation and distance. Rafael M. Ortí Lucas, president of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, explains that at least two must always attend. For this reason, in his opinion – and that of practically the entire scientific community – masks were never necessary in outdoor places such as the beach and the countryside, where there are generally no crowds and where the open air flows.

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More debatable, in his opinion, is to generalize the use in the streets. “If you can’t keep your distance, you would need the other two measures: ventilation and barrier. At least, until we reach a point of incidence and vaccination that allows us to be even more flexible, “he says. This will come, according to their criteria, when in places with less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days – a situation in which for now there are only the Balearic Islands, Galicia, Murcia, the Valencian Community, Ceuta and Melilla – there is a complete vaccination of more 50% of the population, something that no territory has yet reached (the Spanish average is just over 30%).

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José Luis Jiménez Colorado, professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Colorado (United States) and specialist in aerosols, considers that the measure must be used to communicate well to society: “Outdoors there are fewer infections than indoors. But there are still infections when talking near other people, such as on terraces. Has it been reported that if you are close, it is strongly recommended to continue wearing the mask? Is it used to emphasize that it is very important to continue using it indoors? And that the fit of the mask to the face, without gaps, is very important?

The exact details of the rule that will govern the new use of masks are not known. The official announcement is that the Government will approve on Thursday, in an extraordinary Council of Ministers, a royal decree law that will modify article 6 of the Law 2/2021, of March 29, which establishes the mandatory nature of the face mask outdoors and indoors, regardless of the distance, until the pandemic ends. And that will come into effect on Saturday the 26th, but not on what terms exactly.

For weeks, the Alerts Report of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS) has been working on a document that articulates this new reality without masks. Sources from this body explain that it collects that they can be dispensed with in outdoor spaces that allow maintaining a safety distance of 1.5 meters with people outside the social bubble. If these guidelines are finally followed, the mask would continue to be mandatory at large events, busy streets or places such as open-air markets. Also in queues outside or when two people meet and stop to talk, as long as they do not keep the separation.

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Three men talk at the end of March at the Manzanares Linear Park in Madrid.
Three men talk at the end of March at the Manzanares Linear Park in Madrid.Andrea Comas

At the moment, this document has not passed through the Public Health Commission, the body of the CISNS that usually deals with and approves these matters. The Secretary of State for Health, Silvia Calzón, announced on Monday that the minister, Carolina Darias, would report the details this Wednesday in the CISNS, in which she meets with the councilors of the autonomous communities. But sources close to Health explain that it would also be possible to wait for the Council of Ministers to approve the decree law to know the fine print of the new reality. It would not be the first time that the Government has acted in this way in this health crisis.

In the planned scenario, José Martínez Olmos, a professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health, affirms that much emphasis must be placed on the fact that the population must continue with the mask on their backs to put them on when necessary, and that those who are not vaccinated must be especially scrupulous when using them when there is not enough distance. “Of course in closed spaces and public transport it will be necessary to continue taking it a while longer,” he emphasizes.

Martínez Olmos emphasizes raising awareness among the youngest, those who have had the least risk of falling seriously ill from covid throughout the pandemic, but who are now the most susceptible to contracting the disease, as the older population goes protecting yourself with vaccines. According to the latest Health report, more than 8 out of 10 people over 40 have already received at least one dose. “Of course there is a certain danger of relaxation once they are not mandatory, but the population already knows well where the risks lie,” Martinez Olmos ditch.

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More and more scientific evidence shows that the greatest risk of being infected by the coronavirus occurs in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, where the air is shared with infected people. The mandatory nature of the mask at all times avoided the confusion of accessing covered places without it. The pharmacist and disseminator Gemma del Caño insist on keeping these cautions: “Do not make excuses, if you enter a closed place, you have to wear it. Do not involve people who work in front of the public in the commitment to debate with you. They don’t care if you forgot. You wouldn’t go shopping without money, right? Well this, the same ”. De Caño also remembers to avoid the temptation of effusive greetings or two kisses when meeting someone on the street. The virus is still out there, even if it is subsiding.

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