Spain removes COVID-19 indoor mask mandate
Spain removes COVID-19 indoor mask mandate

Spain removes COVID-19 indoor mask mandate

MADRID (AP) – Spain on Wednesday took another step towards a sense of normalcy in the midst of the pandemic by partially ending the almost two-year mandatory use of masks indoors.

The government decree, passed Tuesday, keeps masks mandatory for visitors and staff at medical centers and nursing homes, though patients will not always be required to wear them.

Masks will also be mandatory on all forms of public transport, but not at stations or airports.

It remains unclear what impact the decree will have on workplaces such as public and private company offices, banks, factories and shops, as the government lets employers decide to keep them in use if they assess there is a health risk.

In return, they are recommended, but not mandatory, in multiple gatherings, in densely packed areas, or in the presence of vulnerable people. Schools are also exempt from having to use them.

Masks became mandatory indoors and outdoors shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain in early 2020. The restriction on outdoor use was lifted in mid-2021, but reintroduced between December and February amid a large increase in infections of the highly contagious omicron variant.

“The mask has undoubtedly been one of the most identifiable measures over the past two years and it will no longer be mandatory,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said Tuesday. “They will continue to be with us as an element of protection, especially for the most vulnerable.”

With more than 92% of Spaniards over the age of 12 receiving at least two vaccine doses and the number of coronavirus infections and deaths falling sharply in recent months, Spain has also eliminated mandatory home isolation for people infected with the virus who do not experience symptoms or mild.

The ebb of the pandemic comes as Spanish prosecutors turn their attention to possible illegalities in government purchases of masks and other medical products in the critical first few months of the outbreak.

Two of the most prominent cases involve the Madrid region and the capital’s town hall.

Prosecutors are investigating two men who they say have pulled more than 6 million euros ($ 6.5 million) into commission by selling masks and other products to Madrid City Hall at exorbitant prices. Prosecutors say the two bought luxury cars, watches and even a yacht for the money.

Meanwhile, Spanish and European prosecutors have also investigated the purchase of masks by the Madrid regional government in an agreement brokered by the brother of regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso for a substantial commission.

In both cases, authorities say they acted in good faith during a national emergency and that it was extremely difficult to obtain these products at the beginning of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, by analyzing the books of Spain’s major cities and some major institutions in the first three months of the pandemic, the Spanish Court of Auditors has found that there were often large exorbitant differences in the prices paid for masks and other products.

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