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Spain says goodbye to the mask in transport

A little over 1000 days. It’s the time we spend in Spain wearing a mask every time we take public transport. A symbol of the pandemic that from tomorrow, February 8, once it is published in the BOE, will be left behind. Also in health establishments such as opticians, audiometry centers or orthopedics. It will only be maintained in health centers and establishments, such as pharmacies and pharmacies.

The Council of Ministers has given the green light to the modification of the royal decree on the use of the mask and which puts an end to the obligation to wear it in transport, a measure that was in force in Spain since May 2020. It was then that the BOE published the order of the Ministry of Transport that established it.

And it did this to all users of public and collective transport services, both land and bus, taxi, VTC and rail, as well as air and sea transport.

At the time, the pandemic was showing its harshest side, which led to the fact that the mask was also mandatory on public roads and in closed or open spaces when it was not possible to maintain an interpersonal distance of at least two meters.

Good scarce, exorbitant price

Before these measures arrived, masks were a precious commodity and too scarce. So much so that the Ministry then led by Salvador Illa only recommended them to the sick, with symptoms or suspected cases of covid. There was a shortage and the few that were there were bought at exorbitant amounts for what they were, until the Government decided to set a ceiling price.

Many companies converted to manufacture them. We get used to the new vocabulary. Surgical, hygienic, FP2 mask…fabric with filter, without filter…there were even shops – they have practically closed – that only sold face covers, in all colors and patterns.

transport mask Spain
(photo: Emma Fischer, Duke University),

The different waves of the pandemic arrived and it was unthinkable that masks would disappear from the everyday life of Spaniards.

Nor from the schools. Children older than six had to wear them to class, even to the playground, during recess.

He went with the mask on outside

And due to a socialist amendment to the “new normal” law, it was mandatory outdoors from March 31, 2021 even when the safety distance of 1.5 meters could be maintained on public roads and in outdoor spaces.

Transport mask Spain
Several women with masks and fans walk down a street in Córdoba. / EFE/Sales

On June 24 of the same year, the Council of Ministers decided to put an end to this obligation as long as there was distance. However, with the threat of Omicron this Christmas, the Conference of Presidents imposed it again on Christmas Eve.

The measure was relaxed a month later, already in 2022, abroad.

Spain, one of the last to eliminate it indoors

Indoors we had to wait until April 20 of that year, when it ceased to be mandatory, except in health centers or residences, in addition to public transport and pharmacies. This is how the Government established it in a royal decree. By then, most European countries had already eliminated them.

Since then, students have not had to use it in schools either. Yes, Sanitat recommended that teachers with vulnerability factors wear it, as well as other people with these same conditions who could not maintain the distance of 1.5 meters. They started seeing each other’s faces in class two years later.

See each other again in the subway

And three years later we will start to see them in transport. Although it is no longer difficult to see people without masks on the subway and buses.

It was last January 26 when he announced it the Minister of Health, Carolina Dariaswho appeared this Tuesday at the press conference after the Council of Ministers to inform about the modification of the royal decree so that masks are no longer mandatory in transport from February 8.

Transport mask Spain 2
The Minister of Health at the wheel after the Council of Ministers. PHOTO: EFE/JUAN CARLOS HIDALGO

The decision is now being taken, according to Darias, given the situation of “enormous stability” of the pandemic, with a downward trend in data: a cumulative incidence per fortnight for those over 60 of 50.7 cases, hospital occupancy for covid patients of 1.6% and ICU beds of 1.7%.

“We are talking about one of the lowest data of the pandemic, if not the most”, according to the minister, who has attributed it to the “excellent vaccination campaign”.

And in the words of Darias, this decision represents “one more step” in the response to the pandemic, which has the favorable decision of the report on alerts and which has also passed through the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System.

It will not be mandatory for transport but it is for health and socio-health centers, in which case workers and visitors will have to carry it but not residents.

Yes, the minister has insisted that the mask will continue to be recommended for vulnerable people or people with symptoms.

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