SPAIN’S parliament has voted to maintain the requirement to wear face masks even when outdoors in a decision that sparked immediate backlash.

The vote on Tuesday means that mask wearing when outdoors in public spaces will continue throughout February in all regions of Spain.

The vote tabled by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s left wing coalition late on Tuesday was close with 162 votes in favour, 153 against and 28 abstentions.

The vote was controversial as it also included a measure on increasing pensions in line with inflation, meaning to support the latter would automatically be supporting the former.

The compulsory use of facemasks outdoors was reintroduced at Christmas as infections soared with the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

But not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of the measure – not even the experts.

Mario Fontán from the Spanish Epidemiology Society, believes it is “more a cosmetic measure than an effective one for stopping the virus”.

Meanwhile, Madrid authorities immediately dismissed the continuance, although the measure will be upheld if not enforced.

Regional leader Isabel Ayuso Diaz, who since the start of the pandemic has been a strong critic of restrictions imposed by the central government asked “by what criteria” the decision was made.

Madrid’s regional health minister argued that to continue to insist people wore facemasks all the time “made no sense”.

“Our view remains the same as it was with the approval of the Royal Decree back in December,” said  Enrique Ruiz Escudero on Wednesday.

“The face mask should be worn outdoors in crowded places or when the 1.5metres social distancing between people cannot be guaranteed. Insisting on its use with just one of those criteria makes no sense,” he said.


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