On January 8th, the Regional Ministry of Health of the Government of the Canary Islands made an important announcement. They have decided to make the use of masks mandatory in all healthcare facilities across the Canary Islands. This decision comes even though the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System had agreed to postpone making a general decision for all regions until the following day.
With this new measure, the Canary Islands join other autonomous communities in Spain where the compulsory use of masks in healthcare centers has already been decreed. Until now, since mid-December, wearing masks had only been recommended in all healthcare facilities of the Canary Islands Health Service, but now it is a mandatory requirement.
This rule is temporary in nature and is being implemented during the peak of the influenza and coronavirus epidemics. It will apply to peripheral clinics, health centers, as well as public and private hospitals throughout the Canary Islands.
The primary objective of this measure is to break the chain of contagion. It has been introduced in response to the increasing number of acute respiratory infections, aiming to protect both healthcare professionals and individuals seeking medical care in hospitals and health centers across the archipelago to prevent them from contracting respiratory infections.
Additionally, during a virtual meeting held on the morning of January 8th, the Canary Islands advocated for a consensus on a strategy for preventing respiratory infections. This proactive approach aims to avoid situations of health stress during flu seasons.
In addition to the mandatory use of masks in healthcare settings, the Ministry of Health is emphasizing the importance of maintaining necessary protective measures when experiencing symptoms consistent with the flu or COVID-19. This is to safeguard vulnerable populations from the risk of contagion.
It is important to remember that if symptoms such as cough, fever, general malaise, sore throat, congestion, and runny nose, among others, are present, individuals should use a mask when sharing a room with others, ensure proper room ventilation, practice frequent hand hygiene, especially after coughing or sneezing, cover their mouth and nose with their arm or a tissue when coughing or sneezing, use disposable tissues and discard them after each use, avoid close contact with vulnerable individuals, and refrain from sharing items that may have come into contact with saliva or secretions, such as glasses, cutlery, towels, and other objects.
Vaccination is highlighted as the primary tool in preventing serious cases of both influenza and COVID-19. It also helps prevent co-infections in individuals, minimizing the severity of the diseases and reducing the strain on the healthcare system.
The importance of vaccination against influenza and COVID-19 is emphasized, particularly for those at risk of complications and essential community personnel like healthcare workers and caregivers for the elderly or dependent individuals.
Every year, recommendations for autumn-winter influenza vaccination are established for population groups most at risk of complications and those who may transmit the disease to high-risk individuals. The goal of coronavirus vaccination is to enhance protection for the most vulnerable individuals and healthcare and social care workers, thereby reducing morbidity and mortality related to SARS-CoV-2 and its impact on healthcare and social care capacity.
According to the surveillance report on acute respiratory infection (ARI) in the Canary Islands prepared by the Directorate General of Public Health of the SCS for the week of December 25th to 31st, the incidence rate of ARIs is 1,254.72 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This represents a slight decrease compared to the previous week when a rate of 1,296.78 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was recorded. Notably, the population aged 0 to 4 years had the highest incidence in the last week, with 4,408 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.