Rules reintroduced as ‘commonsense measure’ despite opposition from some regional administrations
Face masks will be mandatory in hospitals and health centres in Spain from Wednesday as the country experiences a surge in cases of flu, Covid and other respiratory illnesses.
The government decision, which was made six months after the use of masks ceased to be obligatory in health facilities and pharmacies, has been met with opposition from some regional administrations.
But Spain’s new health minister, Mónica García, overruled their objections and sought to present the move as a “commonsense measure”.
“We’ve talked and we’ve reflected deeply on the role of masks – especially in health centres and hospitals – when it comes to protecting both patients and health professionals,” she said after a meeting of regional health authorities on Monday.
“It’s an effective, commonsense measure and one that is backed by scientific evidence and that is well received by the public.”
Although some of Spain’s 17 autonomous governments, which are usually responsible for healthcare in their respective regions, have already decreed the wearing of masks in health facilities, others are bitterly opposed.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the rightwing, populist president of the Madrid region and a vociferous and persistent critic of Spain’s socialist-led coalition government, said García’s decision to mandate mask use from central government was unfounded and unnecessary.
“Making masks obligatory now shows improvisation,” she wrote on X on Tuesday. “Madrid has fewer cases because it has been working against flu for a long time: strategies; recommendations; daily monitoring, vaccinations … Imposition through imposition is the resort of a weak manager.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said last month that “several viral and bacterial respiratory pathogens are expected to continue co-circulating at variable levels during the coming months”, contributing to increased morbidity and mortality. The EU body has advised people to stay home when ill and recommended the use of masks in medical facilities.
“During the current high community virus transmission period, it is advised that in addition to appropriate hand and respiratory hygiene, staff, visitors and patients in both primary and secondary healthcare settings wear medical face masks … in common areas of the hospital, patient rooms and other areas where patient care is provided,” it said in an update last month.
According to the World Health Organization, by the end of 2023, Spain had logged almost 14m confirmed cases of Covid and recorded almost 122,000 deaths from the virus.
Source : The Guardian