Spain to drop masks away as omicron surge slows

MADRID (AP) — Spain will end a mandate to wear masks outdoors next week, canceling a late December order amid an unprecedented spike in coronavirus infections fueled by a highly contagious mutation, said Health Minister Carolina Darias.

After confirming contagion levels have peaked, Spain’s cabinet will end the term next Tuesday and the government expects the changes to be enacted from Thursday, February 10, Darias told Cadena radio on Friday. SER.

Wearing a mask will remain compulsory in indoor public spaces, including public transport, and outdoors whenever citizens cannot keep a safe distance of 1.5 meters between them.

The outdoor mandate, passed on December 22 as many prepared to reunite with loved ones over Christmas, was the government’s main response to the spread of omicron.

The decision was criticized by some experts as a cosmetic decision that had little effect in stopping the contagion.

Official Health Ministry data shows how the spread of the virus accelerated in November and peaked on January 21 at 3,418 new infections per 100,000 population in two weeks, a pandemic record. The contagion has since slowed and the 14-day figure fell by 1,000 infections per 100,000 people on Thursday, to 2,420.

Authorities attribute a strong vaccination rate of almost 81% of the population of 47 million to a lower rate of admissions of people with COVID-19 to hospitals than during previous outbreaks of infection.

Spain has officially recorded just over 94,000 COVID-19 related deaths.