Society 17/05/2021

Compulsory mask-wearing outdoors may end in "not many days"

Health prefer administering Pfizer vaccine to under-60s having received one AstraZeneca dose

3 min
The director of the CCAES, Fernando Simón, wearing a mask before a press conference.
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MadridAfter being greatly disappointed last week by celebrations to mark the end of the state of alarm, the director of the Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CAES), Fernando Simon, was clearly optimistic about the evolution of the pandemic despite the end of the night curfew. Simón considered Spain's data to be "very flattering" in terms of the evolution of the pandemic and has even opened the door to ending compulsory mask-wearing outdoors and in certain places such as nursing homes in "not many days".

"It will not take long to make clear proposals to remove the mask at certain times," he said, and has placed as a threshold for making this decision in all regions that cumulative incidence falls below 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous fourteen days. This figure is very close, since in the latest report by the Ministry of Health incidence stood at 151.82 cases, but in areas such as Euskadi is still almost 300, or in Madrid 239. In Catalonia, it stands at 182.55.

Simón, unlike the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, does not like setting fixed dates and instead makes everything depend on epidemiological data. However, he has not considered the countdown the Spanish government has started is at all out of order. It establishes herd immunity in the whole of Spain -70% of population vaccinated - will be attained on August 18. Moreover, it considers that at the current rate of vaccination - with an increase of between 0.5% and 1% in daily immunisation - it might even be reached before this date.

For the withdrawal of some key restrictions, such as the compulsory mask-wearing outdoors, he believes that 50% of the group immunisation would be enough. The goal is to reach this milestone in one month at the most. That is when there will be more people who have received the jab than who haven't. However, the epidemiologist has warned at a press conference that this does not mean abandoning other health measures, such as interpersonal distance or hand disinfection. He gave as an example the case of a residence in which everyone is already immunised. He believes that a young person who works could not wear a mask in this space but, for example, would have to wear it in a gathering with people under 60 who have not yet received the vaccine.

Decision on AstraZeneca

Apart from the study of a clear proposal about the future of the mask after the international bodies have pointed out that it is no longer necessary among vaccinated and non-risk people, the Ministry of Health and the communities are also finalising a decision on what to do with the second dose for the under-60s who have received a first dose from AstraZeneca. This Tuesday, the conclusions of the study done in Spain by Combi Vacs on the safety and immunisation effects of mixing AstraZeneca with Pfizer will be presented. The study has been carried out among 600 people in a total of five hospitals in Spain, including the Vall d'Hebron and Clinic.

Although the decision must be taken by the Public Health Commission after Spain pushed deadlines to the limit and even exceeded the twelve-weeks limit between doses recommended for the AstraZeneca vaccine, both the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and Fernando Simón have publicly defended that they prefer to mix the two vaccines. At stake is the total immunisation of up to two million people. And before studies such as the British study, which also point to more mild side effects by mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer than with two doses of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine (not allowed for minors due to risks of some types of thrombosis), the epidemiologist has argued that what is important above all is the effectiveness of the two vaccines together.