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Face masks in Spain are now compulsory as new rules are made today

After more than two months of lockdown measures and when the coronavirus was at its peak, you would have thought that it would be then that face masks were compulsory to be worn in public. Only now after months of research, the Spanish government have made new rules making the use of protective face masks obligatory in public spaces.

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The use of face masks has been one of the measures that have been subject to many different viewpoints since the health crisis began. At first, authorities did not recommend that they are worn by people who had no symptoms, a U-turn then recommended that they should be used, before finally deciding that face masks would be compulsory on public transportation on May 4 weeks later and of course when eventually the masks could actually be purchased at your local pharmacy. The theory now could be that the stockpile of masks may be a good enough reason to pass the new rule and charge 0.96 each.

So what does this all mean exactly? Well from tomorrow Thursday it is compulsory so please take care to follow the rules and not get fined!

Published today Wednesday 20 May face masks must be worn in the public street, in open-air spaces and any closed space that is for public use or that is open to the public, where it is not possible to maintain [an interpersonal] distance” of two meters.

The new rules apply to everyone over the age of six. The use of face masks is also recommended for children between three and five years of age.

When and where is it deemed that these new rules must be obeyed and what are the enforcement procedures?

The new rules do not establish specific sanctions for those who refuse to wear a mask but legal sources say that, like the rest of the orders under the state of alarm, offenders will be subject to the Public Safety Law, also known as the “Gag Law.” Under this law, a person can be fined between €100 and €600 for minor breaches and up to €600,000 for a very serious offence.

As the de-escalation recently come into effect new rules are being made, so you can now sit on a bar terrace and smoke, drink and eat. This is a public place and there is no certainty that you can stay two meters apart from others. The same would apply in all shops, supermarkets and even walking along the street. So do the new rules make it quite difficult to follow?

The order does not set out what type of protection must be worn. Instead, it recommends the use of “hygienic or surgical masks that cover the nose and mouth” in public spaces where social distancing is not possible.

The rules that apply for the use of public transport came into effect for this on May 4 when confinement measures were eased to allow residents to go outside for exercise and for walks. But on Sunday, the central government and regional leaders struck an agreement to extend their use to all public spaces where social distancing cannot be respected.

The measure comes into effect on Thursday and, in principle, will be valid for the duration of the state of alarm, which is set to end on May 24 although it is most likely that the government will secure congressional approval today to extend the extraordinary measure until June 7.

But there are exceptions to the new rules, according to the order, people with respiratory problems, or those who cannot wear masks for other health reasons or due to a disability, are exempt from wearing them. How then is this controlled and what would one need to do to prove that they are exempt.

The order makes exceptions for cases where wearing a mask is incompatible with carrying out activities, due to the nature of the activity, so in this case, does the order mean perhaps smoking, drinking, eating and other activates?

The Health Ministry confirmed that this means that people do not need to wear a mask while going for a jog.

The order also sets out exceptions for instances of “force majeure.” unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.

Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Wednesday that the central government will not be handing out masks to the public for free. Regional authorities may, however, decide to take this initiative. In Madrid, seven million face masks were distributed for free last week, although complaints that they were not the correct type for use by the general public.

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