Spanish gov’t rules out mandatory face mask use, regions go it alone

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MADRID, July 13 (Xinhua) — The Spanish government on Monday ruled out making the use of face masks mandatory in Spain in all indoor and outdoor settings if a safe social distance can be maintained, the Spanish TV network RTVE reported.

However, while the central government is not changing its policy, the majority of the country’s 17 autonomous communities either have or will tighten regulations regarding face mask use.

Four autonomous communities — Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura and Andalusia — have already made masks mandatory in a bid to stem the increasing number of localized coronavirus outbreaks since Spain entered the so-called “new normality” phase on June 21.

Catalonia was the first to make the wearing of face masks mandatory in all settings on July 9 following a series of virus outbreaks centered in and around the city of Lleida. The President of the Region of Andalusia, Juan Manuel Moreno, confirmed on July 11 that Spain’s largest autonomous community will adopt the measure early this week.

Other Spanish regions said on Monday they too plan to adopt the measure. The northern communities of Cantabria, Asturias, La Rioja and Navarra all confirmed plans to make face masks obligatory even if social distancing can be observed outdoors.

The regional authority in Aragon will do likewise after confirming 228 new coronavirus cases over the weekend.

This spike in new cases has also led to the cities of Zaragoza and Huesca being moved back to Phase 2 of the Spanish government’s four-phase plan to scale down the confinement measures.

This will reduce the capacity of bars and restaurants to 50 percent, and no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend gatherings.

“The growth in the number of cases is moderate, but we think it is enough to adapt measures. … With these measures we aim to limit activities where the accumulation of people could make community transmission of the disease easier,” explained Francis Falo, general director of public health in the community of Aragon.

According to figures published by the Spanish Health Ministry on Friday, the period between July 3 and July 10 saw 2,944 new cases of COVID-19. Enditem

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