Almost 700 days after its approval, it can already be said that the general obligation to wear a mask indoors is a thing of the past. The Council of Ministers just approved the Royal Decree that eliminates the obligation. When it comes into force (tomorrow, April 20, as soon as it is published in the BOE), the last great symbol of the pandemic will cease to be effective. What does the new regulation say? When should you use it and when not? What can we expect in the coming days, weeks and months?
Where will the mask continue to be mandatory? Although the Government advises the “responsible use of the mask” in all those places where there is risk and it is possible and necessary, masks are no longer mandatory in general in all areas and spaces. Of course, there will be certain exceptions:
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- In health centers, services and establishments; for both visitors and workers: this includes hospitals, health centers, blood transfusion centers and also in pharmacies. Those admitted to hospitals will not have to use them in their rooms; but it will be when they are out of them.
- It will also be mandatory for visitors and workers in social health centers (they will not be mandatory for residents).
- In the means of transport (plane, railway, bus, subway or on ships when it is not possible to keep a distance of one and a half meters), without exceptions. It will not have to be used for passenger platforms and stations.
The mask will not be used in school settings. They were no longer compulsory at recess and at some specific ages. Starting tomorrow they will no longer be in all spaces and activities in the school environment. The minister has been blunt “in no case can they be mandatory.” However, it could be advisable in some context (which must be duly justified).
Will we have to follow a mask at work? In general, masks will not be mandatory in the workplace. However, the prevention services of each company could establish the use of masks based on the specific circumstances where the work is carried out (and which will require a specific evaluation).
They will not be mandatory in massive events. The mask will not be mandatory at football matches, concerts, or (in general) at any large event. Of course, in these events (especially if there are vulnerable people), the Government will recommend responsible use.
What about bars, restaurants, museums or entertainment venues? In the absence of the decree being published, there will be no special mechanisms to ensure its use in this type of space. The minister has insisted that the Royal Decree seeks, in general, to eliminate the mandatory nature of the mask in all areas, except those strictly necessary. Other measures that affect them (such as capacity) depend on the autonomous communities and must be addressed by them.
Other recommendations for use. Although masks are no longer mandatory indoors, their responsible use is recommended for the vulnerable population. Also in family settings and private meetings or celebrations, depending on the vulnerability of the participants.
Will there be a reverse? This is one of the key questions. Especially after Austria reintroduced the mask shortly after removing it due to a spike in cases. In this sense, the Government does not rule out any scenario. For months (in the coming weeks, after summer and with the arrival of winter), the key data will be hospital pressure. That is what will “decide” the success or failure of the measure.
After the Fallas, for example, Spain suffered a rebound in the accumulated incidence, but this was not noticed at the hospital level. If the epidemiological evolution follows the same pattern, everything seems to indicate that this will be the regulation that will accompany us, at least, until the spring-summer of 2023.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism