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Spain : Masks are back, or are they?

Regional Aragónese leadership anticipate further measures to be announced on the 23rd and instigated the following week.

There is confusion over the measures passed after the regional leaders meeting on Wednesday. Headline reporting is bold and clear, masks are to be obligatory outdoors once more but on closer inspection, exceptions are clear.

After complaints from various Autonomous regions Sánchez has clarified the mask mandate will involve the following exceptions:

The use will be in force from the 24th although those playing sport or in natural spaces are not required to wear one. It is also clarified that when walking alone or with a member of their household or with a safe 1.5 metre distance people are not going to be required to wear a mask. Díaz Ayuso of Madrid has flatly rejected the mask requirement outdoors providing distance can be maintained. She feels the mask should be a "recommendation."

Further announcements included target dates for vaccine booster programmes. The intention was set out for 80% of the population between 60 and 60 years old to have received a third dose before the end of the year; 80% of those between 50 and 59 before week of 24th January and then 80% between 40 and 49 by the first week in March,

The strategy for 5-11 year olds is intended to have 70% with the first dose by February 7 and 70% with the second dose by April 19.

Retired and near retired personnel will be employed in the health sector. This includes people from other EU states and beyond. Military personnel have been drafted to support the vaccination and tracking teams and military instillations will be made available for use.

Sánchez also confirmed that those who have direct contact with a positive case should not quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. It was also announced that COVID passports will expire nine months from the date of the first dose as of February 2022.

The regional leaders in The Basque Country and Catalonia have continued to call for further restrictions and even a State of Alarm. Sources have indicated that the majority of leaders were in favour of extending the COVID pass scheme.

Lambán, the President of Aragón has already announced the local leadership to announce further measures, while these may be specified before the 24th, they are not expected to be put into place before next week. Lambán has gone on record as saying he feels the outdoor mask requirement is "not necessary" and ineffective, hence the impending new measures, which he hopes to put in to place within Aragonese law to avoid being overturned by the regional courts.

There was growing anger and incredulity at the announcements amongst some, while others embraced the move. It has been widely understood that an outdoor mask mandate is not going to make any significant effect and drew expected derision from political opponents. We suspect that as the case numbers continue to rise that large numbers of the population will call for stricter measures, leaving the Government an opportunity to demonstrate they are responding to concern and public demand as they roll out further restrictions. Protests are planned for the 28th December across the country and a protest outside the Congreso de los Diputados is already scheduled for 12:00h on the 23rd December in Madrid. The flyer stipulates the protest will be for people "without masks".


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