Masks to be compulsory in Spain until virus 'permanently' defeated
Healthcare workers take part in a protest calling for a reinforced healthcare system outside the Gregorio Maranon hospital in Madrid. AFP
Wearing face masks will be compulsory in Spain until the coronavirus epidemic is defeated once and for all, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday.
He said the measure would remain in force after the state of emergency ends on June 21 and will "remain in place until we permanently defeat the virus, which is when we have an effective treatment or vaccine against it".
Since May 21, it has been compulsory for everyone aged six and over to wear a mask in public where it is not possible to maintain a two-metre (6.5 feet) security distance from other people. But when the lockdown formally ends, the measure will remain in place with the government introducing a fine of up to 100 euros ($113) for non-compliance.
The new regulation will, however, slightly reduce the security distance to 1.5 metres. Mask-wearing was initially imposed as a requirement for those using public transport in early May but was later expanded in a country where the virus has killed more than 27,000 people.
With the epidemic now well under control, Spain has been easing out of its mid-March lockdown in a staged process due to finish by June 21, with the country to open its international borders from July 1. Mask wearing is not compulsory for very young children although it is "recommended" for those between three and five.