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Spain mandates face mask use amid COVID-19 surge

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Spain is considering reimposing the mandatory wearing of face masks in hospitals, a nationwide directive set to take effect on January 10, despite resistance from some regional health authorities in response to a surge in flu and COVID cases. 

Spain’s Minister of Health, Monica Garcia, emphasized the necessity of this move to safeguard healthcare professionals, stating on Spain’s Cadena Ser radio, “We are talking about putting on a mask when you enter a health centre and taking it off when you leave. I don’t think it is any drama. It is a basic and simple measure of the first order.”

This decision follows the introduction of regional mask mandates in six areas, including Valencia, Catalonia, Murcia, and the Canary Islands. 

Spain’s central government proposed extending this requirement nationwide on Monday, facing opposition from regions advocating for recommended rather than obligatory mask use. Ms. Garcia’s ministry opted for the imposition after failing to reach an agreement with regional health authorities.

While regional governments oversee healthcare in Spain, the central government can intervene if it deems it necessary.

Spain officially declared an end to the COVID-19 health crisis in July, lifting the mask mandate in health and care centers. However, a recent surge in COVID, flu, and respiratory illnesses during the Christmas and New Year period, termed a “tridemic,” prompted the reinstatement of mandatory face masks.

Data from the Carlos III Health Institute revealed a 75% spike in flu cases in Spain during the last week of 2023, with 4,383 cases per 100,000 people. 

Although COVID-19 cases stabilized with a 10% positive rate in tests at the end of 2023, the virus contributed to an increasing number of hospital admissions, particularly among older individuals.

 

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