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Spain to bring back masks outdoors

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will hold a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday to bring back mandatory outdoor masking in a bid stem the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Several regional leaders had sought the measure and the central government will fast-track approval through a decree before Christmas Eve following a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

The Spanish Government is also pushing its vaccination drive as the best way to ensure maximum protection from the worst effects of the virus.

Despite the decision to reintroduce outdoor masks, Spanish families were told they will be able to celebrate Christmas together.

With nearly 80% of its population vaccinated and a booster programme gathering pace, Spain was largely spared the rampant wave of infections that led several northern European countries to toughen curbs in the autumn.

But the arrival of Omicron has sent numbers skyrocketing, with a record of nearly 50,000 new infections on Tuesday, though hospital admissions and intensive-care cases remain fairly low compared to previous Covid-19 waves.

"Don't worry, families will be able to celebrate Christmas," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament. "Spain has resisted, it has not given up and it is moving forward."

Omicron accounts for some 47% of total Spanish infections, according to data released on Tuesday, soaring from just 3% the week before.

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