The obligation to wear masks in outdoor spaces is lifted by Spanish government – with conditions

The modification comes into force on Thursday 10th February 2022.

Wednesday 9th February 2022 – PRESS RELEASE with Mike Smith

As suggested late last week, but now confirmed, from tomorrow Thursday 10th February 2022, the obligation to wear a face mask at all times in the open air will be lifted, except in certain conditions which are outlined below.

The Spanish Health Ministry confirmed the modification to the current regulations in a Royal Decree published on the Official State Bulletin platform today. The text states that “the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic, favoured by the vaccination coverage that has been achieved in Spain, and by the application of non-pharmacological measures of control of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by the population up to January 2022, makes it possible to propose modifications in the strategies to control the epidemic”.

It notes that there has been a “stable and rapid decrease” in the spread of the virus throughout Spain during the so-called ‘sixth wave’ since a peak was reached on January 21st 2022 where the national 14-day IA rate was 3,418 cases per 100,000 population. On February 4th, just over two weeks after the peak was recorded, the incidence rate had dropped by some 33% and daily reported cases had dropped to a third of what was being recorded in mid-January.

The text considers that the evolution of the spread of the virus had been reducing once the effect on potential transmission associated with the Christmas festivities had been overcome, and it remains stable enough to continue a progressive decrease, with forecasts based on the rest of the epidemic monitoring indicators allowing the health authorities to “foresee its continuity”.

In addition, the probability of hospitalization, admission to ICU, and death during this current wave has been shown to be between 10 and 22 times lower than that observed in the previous waves. The text explains that “this lower severity of the cases detected reduces the pressure [on the health service] compared to other periods, despite the high incidences that have been recorded”.

In addition, the decree states that Spain’s vaccination campaign has “considerably reduced” the vulnerability of the country’s population with infection of vaccinated people in the last quarter of 2021 and the first weeks of 2022 around one-third of those registered amongst unvaccinated people. It adds that the difference becomes “more evident” in the hospitalization figures and in the deaths, especially amongst the older, more vulnerable age groups who have already received a booster dose of the vaccine. In these groups, those who have been vaccinated are 15-20 times less likely to be hospitalized or die than those who are not. By the end of January 2022, 90.8% of those aged 11 and above have been fully vaccinated whilst 55% of the 5-11 age group have received at least one dose.

With regards to non-pharmacological measures, the decree states that the use of a face mask has been “a key measure” in the control of the spread of COVID-19, and that its use has had a greater impact in indoor spaces where people who don’t live together gather and in large crowds where minimum safety distances can’t be maintained.

In summary, the decree text states that the current situation with regards to the spread of the virus makes it possible to modify the rules regarding the use of face masks and thus eliminates the obligation to wear a mask outdoors except in certain conditions, such as in public closed spaces (indoors), in large-scale open-air events, on public transport and in private transport if the occupants don’t live together.

It continues that the new modification should be applied quickly so that “a clear and immediate message” is sent to the public, which “has complied in an exemplary and responsible manner with the various measures that have been adopted by the health authorities since the start of the pandemic”.

The Modification

Real Decreto 115/2022, dated February 8th, details the modification of the obligation to wear a face mask during the critical health situation caused by COVID-19. The full text of the royal decree has been published in BOE Num.34 Sec. I. Pàg 17001-17004 and can be viewed here in pdf format.

People aged six and above are obliged to wear a face mask in the following cases:

  • In any closed space for public use or that is open to the public.
  • In large-scale events that take place in outdoor spaces when attendees are standing. If they are seated, it will be mandatory when a minimum safety distance of at least 1.5 metres between people cannot be maintained, except for those who live together in the same household.
  • On air, bus or rail transport, including passenger platforms and stations, on cable cars, on complementary public and private passenger vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, if the occupants of the vehicle don’t live in the same household, and on ships and coats where the minimum safety distance of 1.5 metres between people cannot be maintain, except for those who live together.

This obligation will not be enforced in the following cases:

  • For people who present some type of illness or respiratory difficulty that may be aggravated by the use of the mask or who, due to their disability or dependency, do not have the autonomy to remove the mask, or present behavioural conditions that make the use of a mask unfeasible.
  • In the event that, due to the very nature of the activities, the use of a mask is incompatible, in accordance with the indications of the health authorities.
  • In those spaces for public use – open or closed – that form part of a place of residence of the groups that meet there, such as the institutions for the care of the elderly or disabled, units intended for collective residence of essential works or other groups that have similar characteristics, as long as said groups and the number of workers who perform their functions there that have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 is greater than 80% with the complete schedule and booster dose, accredited by the competent health authority.

    The last exception will not apply to external visitors, nor to workers in residential centres for the elderly or disabled, since in this case, the use of a mask is mandatory.

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