Coronavirus
Society 19/04/2022

Farewell to masks at schools

Health Dpt to scrap restriction forcing students to wear face-coverings at schools

3 min
Students at the Sadako School in Barcelona without masks on the first day of class of the third trimester

BarcelonaThe days of the mask are numbered. From Wednesday it will no longer be mandatory to wear it indoors, except on public transport and in health centres. In Catalonia, primary and secondary school students will be the first to do without it since the Generalitat decided to bring forward the measure to Tuesday, coinciding with children's return to school after the Easter holidays.

Where will it be necessary to wear a mask?

From Wednesday masks will only be required to attend health services –hospitals. clinics, blood donation centres and pharmacies– as well as to access all public transport "without exception", including taxis, ridesharing, planes and boats if a minimum safety distance of two metres between passengers cannot be kept. In addition, visitors and workers at care homes will also have to wear a mask, whilst residents will be exempt.

What about schools?

The Generalitat has brought forward the lifting of the restriction in schools. Students and teachers will not have to wear masks after Easter.

And at work?

Spanish President Pedro Sánchez has stated this Monday in an interview to Antena 3 that the rule that his government is preparing will be "common sense" and has pointed out that, as for companies, the decision will be in the hands of prevention committees, depending on each company's circumstances, including aspects such as the number of workers or the possibilities to ventilate.

In any case, workers in sectors where the restriction remains in place will have to wear face coverings.

What to do if you have symptoms?

A few weeks ago compulsory isolation for positive cases was ended, but the regulation establishes that anyone who is infected will have to continue wearing a mask until ten days have passed since the first symptoms appeared.

Who is recommended to wear a mask?

The Spanish President has assured that he is convinced that "many people" (including the elderly, people with transplants or with a weakened immune system) will prefer to continue wearing masks as a protective measure. In fact, the Ministry of Health recommends that pregnant women, people over 60 years of age, people with transplants or with depressed immune systems wear a mask when indoores if they are unable to maintain a safe distance.

How is covid evolving?

The withdrawal of masks coincides with an upturn in infections, despite the fact that diagnostic tests have been drastically reduced, but also with one of the highest vaccine coverages, with 80% of the population having received the full schedule. In Catalonia, according to the website Dadescovid.cat, in the last week all the indicators have worsened: effective potential growth has gone from 182 to 245, the rate of infection has gone above 1. PCR positivity has also increased by three points, as well as the number of hospitalised patients (about a hundred), although those admitted to the ICU remain low (about forty).

Precisely, the head of the Catalan Health Department, Josep Maria Argimon, admits that in the coming weeks there may be a more pronounced upturn and does not rule out even that the mandatory use of masks indoors may be recovered if the epidemiological situation requires it. In order to avoid the number of contagions rising, Argimon has urged for personal responsibility and the use of masks in crowded areas, despite the fact that there is no legal obligation

What have other countries done?

The mask is the only restriction that remains against the pandemic, despite the lack of agreement on whether its use should be mandatory for the general population since the pandemic broke out. The reality is that Spain has been one of the strictest countries on the use of masks, both because it has been used for more than a year outdoors, despite epidemiologists complaining there was no need, and for two years the rule has been in place indoors. In Europe it has mostly been a suggestion but not a mandate.

In May 2020 the Spanish government decreed the obligatory use of face masks both indoors and outdoors. Once the vaccination campaign progressed, it stopped being mandatory outdoors as long as there were no crowds. In the sixth wave at the end of 2021, however, the measure was brought back until February 2022 .

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