What you need to know about Spain’s restrictions on cloth face masks

What you need to know about Spain's restrictions on cloth face masks
Photo: AFP
The Spanish government wants to prevent ineffective material or cloth face masks from being sold to the public. Here’s what we know about the stricter rules for their sale.

What’s the latest?

Spain is toughening its requirements for the manufacture and sale of face masks.

The country’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs is expected to approve an amendment on Thursday which would see cloth or material face masks sold to the public have to be 90 percent efficient to be considered face masks that can help prevent Covid-19 infections.

The government’s advice has up to now been to wear only certified (homologadas) face masks, mainly the surgical blue disposable ones and the cone-shaped FFP2 white ones (both 92 to 98 percent efficient), but it hasn't moved to prevent the sale of other material ones which are sold in shops. 

Why does this matter?

Until now all face masks sold in Spain which appeared to meet the general safety standards were allowed to be sold fairly freely, leading to a proliferation of cloth or material face masks which while more aesthetically pleasing – with colourful or personalised designs – were not necessarily as efficient as the medical ones.

So while the impending toughening of requirements doesn’t mean that all cloth or material face masks in Spain will cease to be sold because they’re inefficient, the ones that don’t meet the new standards can’t be sold as “hygienic” face masks, which could be deemed to be certified or surgical in standards.

Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs says it does not have the power to completely “prohibit the sale of pieces of cloth with two rubber bands, but it can stop it from being sold as as a hygienic mask”.

The materials used to make the masks will also have to be tested before receiving official certification.

The Spanish government’s decision is still not quite as strict as that of Germany’s vis-à-vis face masks, where cloth or material face masks have been banned outright from all public spaces. In France, masks with less than 90 percent efficiency can’t be sold at all. 

Last September, the Basque Country decided to prevent access to hospitals and health centres in the region to anyone wearing a material face mask, but this never became a nationwide policy. 

What should I watch out for?

Accredited reusable cloth face masks should contain the code UNE 0065, which certifies that they’re 90 percent efficient, as well as other information such as the filtration abilities after being washed several times.

Masks can no longer be sold outside their original packaging.

According to the text, filters “should cover the largest possible surface of the mask, ensuring that no areas are left where inhaled/exhaled air can pass through unfiltered”.

Does that mean I have to stop wearing my cloth face mask?

No. Spain’s Health Ministry isn’t considering a ban on material face masks which have already been sold and are in circulation (although the fact that the government has moved towards having them banned should lead you to question their efficiency).

It’s the labs in charge of the face mask certification that must be accredited by the relevant authorities in Spain as well as the manufacturers who have to abide by the new rules.

Retailers of masks that have already put on sale but not sold will have 30 days to adapt to new measures, after which time they can no longer sell the face masks under the name 'hygienic masks'.

Both labs and retailers have to stick to the new rules or face sanctions or business closure.


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