The Spanish Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, has announced that the Council of Ministers on 7 February will approve the withdrawal of the compulsory wearing of face masks on public transport, but that it will remain in place in all health centres.
Speaking to the media after the presentation of the PASOS study by the Gasol Foundation, the minister explained that this decision has been taken because Spain has “a very stable epidemiological situation” with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic in all indicators.
This has meant, according to the minister, that the experts who make up the Alerts Committee have decided that the time is right for the elimination of masks on public transport.
However, their use will continue to be mandatory, also on the recommendation of the experts, in health centres, health services, health establishments (such as pharmacies) and socio-health centres for visitors and workers.
Last week, Darias reported that the possibility of eliminating the obligatory use of masks in pharmacies is an issue that is being “weighed up” in accordance with the criteria of the experts.
On Thursday, the minister did not clarify when and if the mask will be removed in the health sector. “We are taking it step by step”, she replied to questions from the media.
Before the Council of Ministers on 7 February, the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS) will meet next week to “process all the administrative aspects” of removing the masks, “participate in this measure and put it into effect”.
Darias has not detailed when the measure will come into force once it is approved by the Council of Ministers, although the Government’s agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official withdrawal of the masks could be on 8 February.
On balance, Darias defended the fact that the Ministry’s management of the pandemic has been “coordinated, consensual and with a planned roadmap”, and “by the hand of experts”. “Phase by phase, step by step, approving regulations, approving strategies, plans and measures. In each of these steps we have done so hand in hand with experts, who have been advising us at all times,” she argued.
Finally, she also thanked Spanish society for its contribution to the fight against COVID-19. “We entered the pandemic without charts. Thanks to the collective effort of citizens, healthcare professionals, those who make up the National Health System (NHS), the Spanish Government, autonomous communities and cities, we have faced the pandemic,” she concluded.
The mask ceased to be mandatory in outdoor environments almost a year ago, on 10 February 2022. Two months later, on 20 April, it also ceased to be mandatory indoors, except in health centres and public transport.