Andalucia announces compulsory use of masks
Andalucia on Monday announced the compulsory use of masks in all public places in a bid to stem transmission of Covid-19.
The measure comes into effect as from Wednesday. Until now, mask use was compulsory only in situations where social distancing could not be guaranteed.
The move was announced by Juanma Moreno, the President of the Junta de Andalucia, who said it followed unanimous expert scientific advice to the regional government.
“I know it can prove uncomfortable to always wear them in enclosed and open spaces, but I ask you to make an effort,” Mr Moreno wrote on Twitter.
“Prevention today is the guarantee for the future and will avoid infection.”
And he added: “Despite the heat, the difficulties and limitations, we have to get used to permanently wearing masks."
Speaking to Cadena Ser radio, the Junta’s health spokesman, Jesus Aguirre, said failure to use masks would result in fines of up to 100 euros and that, alongside stemming transmission, compulsory use of masks would serve as a timely reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.
In common with other regions around Spain, and indeed experience in many other countries, Mr Aguirre said some sectors of Spanish society, in particular the young, were not always keeping to so
cial distancing guidelines.
He said mask use could drastically reduce the potential for infection.
There are currently 19 clusters of Covid-19 in Andalucia, of which 12 are under control and seven are still being investigated in order to trace people who may have come into contact with the virus.
The Junta defines a cluster as three or more cases linked to each other, meaning many of the latest infections are highly localised.
Mr Aguirre said most cases were recovering at home and that there had been no spike in the number of people admitted to hospital or intensive care units in the region, which continues to have one of the lowest incidences of Covid-19 in all of Spain.
“But this could change, which is why prevention is the best measure to take,” Mr Moreno said at the weekend.
Andalucia is one of several Spanish regions including Cataluña, Aragon, the Basque country, Extremadura and Baleares that have made mask use mandatory in public, irrespective of social distancing.
Despite the move by various regions, the Spanish Government signalled it had no current plans to make the use of face masks compulsory nationwide where social distancing can be guaranteed.
A Health Ministry source told Reuters on Monday there would be no nation-wide change for now.
Spain's regions already have the instruments they need to tackle the roughly 100 localised outbreaks that have sprung up around the country, the source added.