Spain passes mask mandate for all outdoor public spaces
New law requires people to wear masks on beaches or in forests, even with no one else around
Spain passed a new law on Tuesday making masks mandatory in all public spaces, indoor or outdoor, until the end of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Since last summer, masks have been ubiquitous in Spain and have been required in all indoor public spaces and outdoors in urban settings.
Now, however, people will have to mask up in places like beaches or the countryside, even if no one else is nearby. There are exceptions for people with medical conditions or for those who are practicing sports.
This move has triggered sharp criticism from the public and health experts, who say the risk of contagion is drastically lower outdoors than indoors and virtually nil if a person is alone.
"These measures have costs: people will get tired, institutions will lose credibility and are showing themselves unable to signal which measures are important," wrote Javier Padilla, a family doctor and author.
The law is set to endure until the pandemic is over or the government backtracks.
It could also impact the tourism sector, particularly those who the country hopes to lure back over the summer holidays to the beach.
There has already been an influx of international tourists for Easter, despite travel restrictions on domestic tourism.
On Tuesday, local media reported that two German and four Croatian tourists were infected with the coronavirus on the island of Mallorca and have been placed in a so-called COVID-hotel to quarantine.
Infections in Spain have been on an upward trend, although the Health Ministry data on Tuesday showed a slight drop in the infection rate, primarily due to an adjustment in Spain's total population and incomplete data.
The positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has increased from 5.9% to 6.14%. At the same time, active hospitalizations decreased slightly and another 106 deaths were reported.
Spain has administered 7.7 million vaccine doses -- 91% of all the country has received.