As happens every last night of the year, at midnight this Friday, in the middle of June, there was a countdown at Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Although this time it was dedicated to roll chinstrapsDozens of young people screamed from 10 to zero before ripping them off and throwing them in the air.
Because from this Saturday, in Spain it is no longer mandatory to cover your nose and mouth on the street or in outdoor spaces, as long as the distance of one and a half meters can be guaranteed Between people.
The decision, which generates doubts and mistrust In some sectors of Spanish society, it was also celebrated as the end of a sentence in squares and beaches of cities such as Barcelona and Valencia.
The chinstrap that the Spaniards had to wear on public roads during the last 13 months of the pandemic, however, will remain mandatory if there are crowds -even if you are outdoors-, in public transport, on the platforms, in recitals -if the audience is standing- and, of course, indoors.
In residences for the elderly, the elderly may not wear the chinstrap in open spaces, although those who care for and visit them must.
Open-face walks, this Saturday in Madrid, Spain. Wearing chinstraps is no longer mandatory. Photo: EFE
Spain lifts the mandatory chinstrap on the street when it has an incidence of 95 cases of coronavirus detected per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days.
According to the Ministry of Health, in the last hours 4,924 new cases of Sars-Cov-2 were diagnosed and 13 people died from Covid-19 here.
there is already almost 16 million Spaniards with the complete vaccination schedule, representing 33.5 percent of the population. And some 38.8 million people received the first dose of the hopeful serum that will immunize them.
Fears and prudence
This summer Saturday, with thermals hovering around 30 degrees throughout Spain, freeing the faces of the chinstrap is a measure celebrated by the youngest and worries the elderly.
In streets like Preciados, close to Gran Vía, or Fuencarral, in the center of Madrid, you see more faces covered than smiles in the open air.
Older people, for now, bet on prudence. “They have kept us locked up at home, they have vaccinated us but I am still afraid. I’m not going to take it off when I go shopping, ”says Maruja, a 76-year-old from Madrid and a cane.
In Barcelona, many people already walk down the street without a chinstrap. Photo: AFP
“Taking off the mask (chinstrap) right now I do not think it will have a great impact on the increase in cases or in hospital incidence,” he tells Clarion the virologist Estanislao Nistal Villán.
“We are entering the hottest months, when transmission is more reduced and, despite the fact that there are many people not yet immunized, the risk of contagion in open spaces is very low”, adds Nistal Villán, who also teaches Microbiology at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the CEU San Pablo University of Madrid.
“Spain has more than 50 percent of the population with at least one dose,” recalls the virologist.
“The risk that is run by not wearing masks in open spaces is that we do not remember and that we enter closed spaces without wearing them. And that in these months when it comes to seeing family, friends, there are meetings and parties we Let’s relax, “he adds.
For Daniel López Acuña, epidemiologist and former director of Sanitary Action of the World Health Organization, the decision is premature and hasty.
This doctor would not have lifted the mandatory chinstrap even in the open air “until the incidence is less than 25 per hundred thousand inhabitants and until we have 70 percent of the people vaccinated.”
“There is neither a day nor a magic number. What we have to do is achieve the goal of 70 percent of the vaccinated population and we will surely achieve it by the end of August. The important thing is that we continue vaccinating, ”says López Acuña.
Spain looks like this, with a clear face, to the summer as Italy is doing and as France and the United Kingdom have already done, where the use of the chinstrap in the street was never mandatory as it is here, when a decree published in the Official State Gazette in May last year, covered the nose and mouth of the Spanish for a year and a month.
Older people are more reluctant to stop wearing a chinstrap in Madrid, Spain. Photo: AP
Israel, the first country that freed its people from wearing the chinstrap outdoors in April and days ago in closed spaces and homes, had to back down in this latest decision due to the increase in infections.
Joy and criticism
Gone are the days when volunteers handed out chinstraps at the main subway stations in Madrid. However, you will always have to carry, for now, a chinstrap in your pocket.
“I made mine fly through the air in the square and then, when we wanted to go into the bar to continue celebrating, they wouldn’t let me because I didn’t have a mask. Luckily a friend had one too many and she gave it to me ”, says Pilar, 19.
“The masks give way again to the smile”, were the hopeful words of the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias.
However, the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, who is a member of the opposition party – the PP – to the coalition government of Pedro Sánchez, considers the measure confusing.
“Minister Darias says that if you cannot keep your distance at a zebra crossing (pedestrian path), you have to wear a mask, and by crossing a zebra we understand any circumstance in which we may find ourselves. Now I can be without a mask, I am outdoors; I get closer, I walk away and I take it off. This must be taken more seriously ”, said the mayor of Madrid.
“Citizens deserve that the measures are not adopted for mere political interest,” he added. How are the Police now told to control the use of the mask? How can we do it?”