Farewell to face masks outdoors

2 min
People wearing masks in Barcelona in an archive image.

The fight against the pandemic is like an obstacle course in which, with each hurdle that is overcome, we get a little closer to precovid normality. This Saturday is one of those important days in this process because it is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors as long as a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between people can be maintained. A year after this measure came into force, then, and coinciding with the arrival of the strongest heat, we will be able to drop our masks, breathe air without any interference and see each other's faces again. It will be a step comparable to the opening of the hospitality industry or the recovery of mobility, a change that confirms the good forecasts about the impact of vaccination.

Even so, the mask will continue to be compulsory in closed spaces, such as public transport and shops, so it will always be necessary to have one with us. Experts agree that it is here, indoors, where the vast majority of infections occur and that the compulsory nature of the mask in the outdoors was a measure designed more to raise awareness about the importance of always wearing it than its real effectiveness in curbing transmission. Even so, the example of what is happening in other countries invites us not to lower our guard. In some areas of Israel, for example, the obligatory use of masks has been recovered in the face of an increase in the number of cases of the delta variant of the virus.

Without going any further, the outbreaks detected among students who were traveling in Mallorca or Menorca show that the virus is now raging with the younger population, which is not vaccinated. It is true that at this age the risk of suffering serious consequences from the disease is very low, but we must remember that there are sectors of the population over 50 who have not yet received the second dose or have simply not been vaccinated. It is estimated that 16% of the population over 50 is not immunised. If we add to this percentage the fact that no vaccine can ensure 100% immunity, there is still a non-negligible risk that a contagion, resulting for example from contact with a young infected person, can result in hospitalisation.

It is for this reason that authorities are now trying to convince those who are reluctant to get vaccinated, or those aged 60-69 who have not wanted to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, to do so, even by offering them another vaccine to allay fears. As time goes on, not being vaccinated at these ages will be especially dangerous because there will no longer be the restrictions that have so far slowed the spread of the virus, as the general population needs to be able to regain these areas of lost freedom.

Even so, the use of the mask indoors will be extended much longer in time, as a protective measure to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus (and other viruses, such as the flu, by the way). Before long, perhaps this will be the only reminder of the pandemic. But fortunately now it is no longer necessary to convince anyone of its necessity.