How Spain’s regions and epidemiologists have been reacting to the new mask law

A woman wearing a mask on the beach
Photo: Josep Lago/ AFP
On March 30th, the Spanish government announced a new law requiring people to wear masks outdoors at all times, including on the beaches and walking in the countryside, even if a safe distance is kept. Over the past few days, however, there has been a backlash from both residents and scientists. Here is how Spain’s autonomous communities and its epidemiologists have been reacting.

The current rules in place require people to wear masks outside, only when a safe distance can’t be maintained, however, each Spanish region has slightly different variations on the law. For example, in certain autonomous communities, you can sunbathe without a mask, but when walking along the shore, you must wear one. Others, however, say that masks are not required on the beach at all if you can keep a safe distance. 

On March 30th however, the government announced a new rule which would be applicable throughout the whole of Spain. “People from the age of six and older have the obligation to wear masks on public streets, in outdoor spaces and in any closed space that has a public use or is open to the public,” read the new law published in the Official State Gazette (BOE).

READ ALSO: Spain to require public to wear face masks outdoors at all times

How have Spain’s regions reacted to the new rule?

Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Galicia and Valencia have all been in favour of keeping their current regional mask-wearing regulations in place until the Health Ministry amends the state regulations. This means that over Semana Santa, fines of up to €100 for not obliging with the new mask law, will not be enforced. 

Several autonomous communities have said that the new rule clashes with the current laws they have in place and that forcing people to wear a mask while sunbathing or walking the countryside is a “decontextualised” decision because the law does not say anything about having to wear masks indoors. 

The current mask-wearing rules across the following regions will stay the same over Easter:

The Community of Valencia has said that the “beach is a safe space”. President Ximo Puig said that they will propose a new law to regulate the use of masks at the beach, which will mean masks will not be required, as long as people respect social distancing and relationship rules.

The Balearic Islands have said that wearing masks on the beach with cohabitants will not be necessary, as long as you can maintain a safe distance from others. However, they have said that you do have to wear the mask if you are on the beach with a group of up to six people who you do not live with.

Catalonia has said that the new laws regarding masks will not come into force over Easter and that during Semana Santa, masks will be mandatory in open spaces, as long as it’s not incompatible with the activity you are doing, such as going for a dip in the sea.

The Canary Islands have said that the new rule will not affect the current regulations they have in place, which include being able to sunbathe on the beach without a mask, as long as people are sitting on their towel and are maintaining a safe distance from others.

Galicia has said that sunbathing without a mask will be allowed, but that sports must be done with a mask on.

Basque Country will keep its current measures in place over Easter. These include the requirement of a mask while walking along the shore, but not when sunbathing, as long as people live in the same household and are maintaining a distance of at least one metre from other groups.

Cantabria has said they hope that the government will clarify the new mask rules because they contradict what is currently in place. The region’s current rules state people must wear masks up until the entrance of the beach but can remove them for sunbathing and walking along the shore, as long as a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Spain’s new face mask law will affect you

What do the epidemiologists say about the measure?

The majority of experts have criticised the new law requiring masks to be worn outside at all times, even if people can keep a safe distance, and say that it has no scientific basis.

Epidemiologist Alex Arenas, a professor at the Rovira I Virgili University of Tarragona told NIUS Diario “We must promote life outdoors, where the contagion is 20 times less”. He has criticised the Health Ministry who he says are discarding scientific advice. “Open-air and distance are how we fight this virus,” he continued.

Ignacio López-Goñi, professor of microbiology at the University of Navarra also told NIUS Diario: “The measures that oblige or limit basic freedoms must be few, easy to follow and consistent, and must be explained well. The citizen must understand the reason for the measures to be followed. The use of a mask must be required indoors, for example at work, even if there is a safe distance”. 

Epidemiologist and former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Daniel López Acuña agrees with the government’s new law, however. “It makes all the sense in the world to take extreme precautions and reduce infections,” he said. He believes it is good that the government is taking these extra precautions and that distance is not enough, even in outdoor spaces. He believes that masks should be worn on the beach.

In response to the backlash, Government spokesperson María Jesús Montero explained on Wednesday, March 31st, that the new law will still need to be analysed and reviewed “in case anything published in it is not in line with what has been learned”. 


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.