As cases skyrocket, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on
It is over 35 degrees Celsius and although masks are no longer mandatory on the streets of Spain, masks are everywhere in Madrid as people fear the surge in Covid cases.
Unlike people in many other European countries who have dropped their masks, Spaniards have largely chosen to cling to the face coverings that have become part of the daily lives of billions of people over the past 18 months.
“Just in case,” says Katherin Castro, an 18-year-old who has already received a dose of the vaccine.
“Covid is still there and even with the vaccine there are a lot of infections.”
Walking down one of Madrid’s wide avenues, Juana Delgado, 65, has her face covered in a surgical-grade FFP2 mask that she wears every day.
“I’m in a risk category so I wouldn’t think about giving it up just yet despite having been fully vaccinated two months ago,” she said.
Although she was fully immunized two months ago, she says she only feels safe “at home”.
Almost a month after Spain dropped its obligation to wear masks on the streets, few people here have done so, unlike the UK where face covers were thrown away this week, while the France is considering a similar decision for people vaccinated in certain indoor locations.
“In the coming days, our streets and faces will return to their normal appearance,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said before the requirement was lifted on June 26, provided that a safety distance of 1.5 meters can be achieved. be respected.
But with new cases of the highly contagious Delta variant spreading rapidly, Delfin Rapado believes that “until 80 or 85% of the population is vaccinated, we should not take them out.”
So far, just over 50 percent of Spain’s 47 million people have been fully immunized.
Rapado, who pushes his granddaughter in a buggy and keeps his distance while speaking, says that “the government was wrong to give up wearing the mask so soon,” dismissing it as a ploy to bring back tourists.
And tourists “don’t wear masks,” complains Flor Cardena, 64, who has a store in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, grumbles as two bare-faced visitors walk past.
“I don’t feel safe. I won’t take my mask off even after the pandemic is over,” she said.
For Marie-Hélène Leheley, a 57-year-old French tourist visiting Barcelona, it is a surprise to see so many people “wear masks all the time”.
– The decree of the smile –
In regions where cases of the virus have increased such as the north of the Basque Country, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia to the northeast or Andalusia to the south, regional leaders have urged the central government to reimpose the mask rule. outside – but their calls fell on deaf ears.
Although it defended its decision to drop the requirement, the government tempered its language, with Health Minister Carolina Darias saying on Tuesday that masks were “still mandatory” in Spain, except “in very few cases. specific “.
When parliament passed the so-called “smile law” on Wednesday that officially ended compulsory masks at all times, some of the government’s key allies abstained and the right voted against it.
Oscar Zurriaga, deputy director of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, believes that wearing a mask in the open air should never have been made compulsory.
“In well-ventilated outdoor spaces where there are no large groups of people and where the safety distance can be maintained, this has never been necessary,” he said.
But he said the “subliminal message” sent by dropping the use of masks is important in that it prompts people to ditch other health precautions such as keeping the safe distance.
© 2021 AFP