In response to a sharp increase in COVID-19 and flu cases, the Spanish government has reintroduced mandatory face masks in hospitals and healthcare centers across the country, according to the Health Ministry.
Despite facing opposition from a majority of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, the new leftist minority coalition government is enforcing this measure to curb the rising health crisis.
Health Minister Monica Garcia, speaking to Cadena Ser radio, emphasized the simplicity of the measure, stating, “We are talking about putting on a mask when you enter a health center and taking it off when you leave. I don’t think it is any drama. It is a basic and simple measure of the first order.”
Spain’s hospitals have been grappling with increased pressure in recent weeks due to a surge in cases of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses.
The Health Ministry decided to implement the mask mandate after failing to reach an agreement with regional health authorities.
Many regional governments argued that mask use should be recommended but not obligatory, highlighting the ongoing tension between central and regional powers in healthcare administration.
Six regions had already independently introduced the mask mandate, with masks becoming a common sight on streets, public transport, and in health centers in recent months.
Notably, the Canary Islands, a popular destination for British holidaymakers, enforced mandatory mask usage in health centers, pharmacies, and hospitals on Tuesday.
The Canary government stated that this rule would remain in force until the epidemic peak subsides.
Valencia’s health department also joined the growing list of regions implementing mandatory mask usage in health centers on Friday.
This decision was prompted by a high incidence rate of 1,501 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, underlining the urgency felt by regional authorities to take preventive measures.
The central government retains the authority to intervene in healthcare matters if it deems such action necessary, further complicating the relationship between regional and national health policies.
As Spain grapples with the dual challenge of COVID-19 and flu, the reintroduction of mandatory face masks reflects the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between public health and regional autonomy.