Spain backtracks on controversial plans to make tourists wear masks

The masks can come off again! Spain backtracks on plan to make tourists wear face coverings on the beach

  • £100 fine was envisaged in new decree ordering masks even for lone sunbathers
  • But the plan was today scrapped after talks between regional health ministers 
  • Current rules remain for now which means lone sunbathers do not need masks 

The Spanish government has backtracked on a controversial move to make sunbathers wear face masks at all times on beaches and around pools.

Ministers have scrapped plans that emerged yesterday under which British tourists would have faced fines of €100 (£85) if they tried to top up their tans during Costa holidays without face coverings on.

It followed the introduction of a new decree which came into force this morning and made face masks obligatory even when people were sunbathing by themselves or with their household. 

But at midday today it emerged modifications will be made which will allow popular holiday areas like the Balearic Islands and the Costa del Sol to exempt people from wearing them when they are social distancing on beaches and around pools.

The Spanish government has backtracked on a controversial move to make sunbathers wear face masks at all times on beaches and around pools (file photo) 

Balearic Islands health secretary Patricia Gomez confirmed the U-turn following a meeting between regional health chiefs and Spain’s health minister Carolina Darias at a meeting in Valladolid.

Further discussion is now expected to take place on the exemptions each region wants to put in place within the framework of national legislation. 

The status quo will remain in place for the time being – which in islands like Majorca and Ibiza as well as mainland regions like the Costa del Sol will mean that people sunbathing with their household do not need to wear masks while lying on a towel. 

Overnight, leading epidemiologists had laid into the Spanish government as the Balearic Islands said it would lead the way into getting Madrid to rethink its new law. 

Epidemiologist Alex Arenas, a professor at Rovira i Virgili University in the Catalan city of Tarragona, told local media: ‘Life outdoors, where the risk of contagion is 20 times less, should be encouraged.

‘Spain’s health ministry lost its way months ago and scientifically they are very mediocre.

‘This is what happens when you dismiss scientific advice from the best and only listen to those you want to listen to.

‘Fresh air and social distancing, that’s how you deal with coroanvirus.’

Spanish beaches re-opened for tourists last summer, including this one in Barcelona, but prospects for foreign holidays this year remain unclear 

Ignacio Lopez-Goni, a professor of microbiology at the University of Navarra, added: ‘If it’s difficult to explain and understand, it’s difficult to obey.’

Alberto Garcia Salido, an A&E doctor at a specialist children’s unit at a Madrid hospital, said: ‘Forcing people to wear face masks when there is social distancing leads to fatigue and non-compliance.

‘People lose confidence in the decision-makers. I think this new rule is one that will be reversed fairly soon.’

Balearic health secretary Patricia Gomez had said ahead of the meeting the law had to be obeyed if the Spanish government stuck to its guns. 

But she added: ‘We consider that in the case of social meetings involving more than one family nucleus face masks should be worn, but when it’s the same family composed of people who live under the same roof, it shouldn’t be necessary.’

Regional civil service minister Mercedes Garrido added: ‘If we’re given the opportunity to make some exemptions, we’ll use it.’

Spanish government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero had already indicated parts of the new legislation could be up for discussion.

It is not yet clear if Britons will be allowed to holiday abroad later this year.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday the door ‘was not shut’ on foreign holidays this summer, but added: ‘It’s just too early to say.’

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