THE use of masks in public spaces could become mandatory across Spain next week.
Health Minister Salvador Illa told regional leaders in a meeting today that use of the protective equipment will be ‘reinforced’ in the coming days.
But Illa said he could not yet reveal ‘the concrete details’ of the new order, expected to arrive on Monday.
“There will be a strengthening of the obligation,” he said, “but until the order is complete I can’t reveal more.”
It comes after a string of conflicting accounts on the effectiveness of masks for the general public, which, in the space of two months, has changed from ‘unnecessary’ to ‘highly recommended.’
But forcing people to don the protective gear does not have the full approval of the experts.
“I understand that it’s a possibility but if that is going to be policy, you have to think very carefully about how it’s done,” said director of health emergencies Fernando Simon, “because it can cause major problems.”
The expert did not give his personal opinion on the issue but told press he thinks masks are a ‘good preventative measure’, adding that ‘the best mask is being two metres away.’
When the outbreak began, masks were recommended for health professionals or people who were having contact with COVID-19 patients.
By the end of March, that recommendation was extended to people with pre-existing conditions and compromised immune systems and those from at risk groups.
Then, following a supply crisis, which led to thousands of ‘fake’ masks being sold and used, authorities said they were unnecessary for the public as they could create a ‘false sense of security.’
The PPE was then made mandatory for anyone travelling on public transport from May 4, and could soon be made mandatory for people leaving their homes from next week.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not changed its stance on masks since the start of the pandemic.
The international body says healthy people should only wear the masks when they are caring for someone suspected to be infected or when they are coughing or sneezing. They add that their usage is only effective if combined with hand washing and use of santising gel.