The Ministry of Health and the autonomous communities have agreed this Monday to remove the mask outdoors except in mass events if there is no safety distance, a measure that will be definitively approved in the Council of Ministers on Tuesday so that it can come into force next Thursday. The decision has been agreed with the support of all the communities with the exception of the Basque Countrywho has abstained.
Once it is published on Wednesday in the BOE, the mask, which was once again mandatory on the street at the end of December, will no longer be so as of Thursday, although it will be recommended to take it when there are crowds. Massive events, including sporting events, when standing or when the interpersonal distance of one and a half meters cannot be kept if seated are excepted.
The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, had summoned the councilors at 8 a.m. this Monday to a new extraordinary meeting of the Extraordinary Council of the National Health System to finalize the details of the end of the mask outdoors. Darias herself advanced it last Friday, just three days after the Government validated on February 1 the royal decree law that returned the mandatory use of the mask outdoors, except in cases of the practice of individual sport or being in Natural spaces.
The measure was widely questioned by experts in epidemiology and public health, who saw that this obligation represented an unnecessary twist with a very limited impact on the containment of the virus, but even so, it was one of the few agreed by the Conference of Presidents on December 22 to try to stop the escalation of cases due to the advance of the omicron variant. The use of masks outdoors had ceased to be mandatory in June 2021.
Criticism of some autonomous communities
The Government’s announcement immediately raised criticism from many autonomies that, even sharing the background, they accused him of “dizzy” and lurching with sudden changes of opinion on this matter without previously consulting them or a scientific committee. This was the case of the Community of Madrid, whose president, Isabel Diaz Ayusoaccused him of being “dizzying” the population: “First the COVID passport in some places yes and in others, no; the mask was important and then it was not, and it has not contained the sixth wave. It is also being shown that in outdoor spaces it is not necessary, only if the place is very crowded.”
Alberto Nunez Feijoopresident of the Galician Xunta, also censored “the feeling of swing and insecurity” that the government gives. Like the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, who criticized the “lurches” of the Executive and accused him of not having listened before to a scientific and technical committee or to the communities, which are the ones with the powers. The President of Castile and León, Alfonso Fernandez Manuecoconsidered the “electoralist” announcement and a sign that President Pedro Sánchez “is only right when he corrects it.”
For his part, the President of Aragon, Javier Lamban, declared that “I have nothing against removing the masks abroad, just the opposite. If a measure is taken, it will be very successful and will have my full support.” The president of the Balearic Government, Francina Armengol, He also celebrated the decision because “this requirement of the mask abroad had to be removed as soon as possible”, and now “the incidence of cases is beginning to drop significantly”. Meanwhile, the Minister of Health of La Rioja, Mary Somalopointed out that “the progressive elimination of measures” against COVID-19 is feasible, and one of them is that of outdoor masks in a context such as the current one of “generalized decrease in incidence”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.