The Spanish government has imposed the mandatory use of facemasks in hospitals and health centers from Wednesday, following a sharp rise in COVID-19 and flu infections in recent weeks.
The decision was announced after a meeting on Monday between Health Minister Monica Garcia and representatives of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, despite objections from some regions including Madrid and Castille-Leon.
Spain has reported a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses, with the infection rate soaring to over 952 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The peak of infections is set to arrive in the coming days, Garcia said.
“We are talking about wearing a facemask when you enter a health center and taking it off when you leave. I don’t think that is a drama, it is a basic and simple measure,” she said, adding that the ministry would work side by side with communities to protect citizens’ health.
Previously on social media platform X, Garcia said that “given the resurgence of respiratory viruses, we have to take care of each other. We once again convene an extraordinary Council with the Autonomous Communities to promote coordinated actions that help desaturate health services.”
A return to obligatory face masks was already announced in the regions of Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia and Aragon last week.
Speaking in an interview on radio station Onda Cero on Monday, Garcia said her ministry was also considering removing a requirement to present a doctor’s note if employees are off work for health reasons for three days or less, a move that would save thousands of doctors’ visits a year.
Several European countries have reported a rise in respiratory diseases, with temperatures plummeting at the start of the new year.
In Romania, 549 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the start of the new year, twice the figure reported last month, the country’s health ministry said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the first week of 2024, Romania reported 2,525 new COVID-19 cases, including 805 reinfections. ■