The Spanish government has confirmed that the wearing of maskswill be compulsory from Thursday in enclosed areas and on the streets when the required two-metre social distancing protocols cannot be followed.
While children under six will be exempt from the order, masks are recommended for children aged three to five. People with breathing difficulties are also exempt from using masks.
Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, said the measure was intended to protect both the wearer and those around them. He also said there were clear differences between going for a solitary walk in the countryside and navigating busy city streets.
“The rules aren’t that complicated: you need to keep a distance from others of around two metres,” he said. “If logically, you’re on the street and realised that won’t be possible, you put on your mask and that’s that.”
Until now, facemasks – which are being handed out at train and metro stations – have been compulsory only on public transport.
Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, addressed MPs in congress on Wednesday morning to seek their approval for a fifth, two-week extension of the state-of-emergency that has been in force since 14 March.
The prime minister apologised for the mistakes his Socialist-led coalition had made during the pandemic, but said the progress made over the past two months needed to be consolidated with another extension of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.
“It is the people who have beaten the curve,” he said. “Spaniards have come together to stop the virus and no one has the right to squander what we’ve achieved with the lockdown.”
His arguments were given short shrift by Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative People’s party.
“You’re trying to get us to choose between you and chaos, but that’s impossible because you are chaos,” said Casado. “You have no way of protecting the Spanish people except with this brutal confinement.”