MADRID (Reuters) – Making face masks mandatory everywhere is likely to chase off tourists when Spain badly needs them, the Balearic Islands’ business association said on Friday.
Tourism all but shut down in Spain in March because of the coronavirus pandemic and is only slowly resuming.
Spain goes further than other top tourist destinations in the region by making masks mandatory if maintaining distance of 1.5 metres is impossible.
The Balearic Islands and Catalonia – Spain’s top foreign tourist destinations – have made the rule even stricter imposing them everywhere in public regardless of distances.
“We are against imposing more restrictive measures on tourists than the ones they have to abide by back home as it will dissuade them from choosing our islands,” the Balearics’ business lobby CAEB said, adding it was easier for authorities to decide on such coercive measures than act to protect jobs and businesses.
The constant rule changes were also a problem, said Marta Gonzalez, a representative for a tourism industry group in Catalonia.
“When you say one thing one day, the opposite the next, and the following day the opposite of the opposite – that’s a problem,” she said.
Spanish authorities changed their minds several times over when and how to open borders to foreign tourists.
Mask wearing is not compulsory except on public transport in Greece or Cyprus, with whom Spain competes for summer tourism.
In Italy, strict mask-wearing rules are in effect until July 14 in regional COVID-19 epicentre Lombardy, and elsewhere wearing masks is not obligatory outside for those who can keep a safe distance from others.
There will be exceptions in Catalonia and the Balearic archipelago – masks will not be mandatory when exercising, swimming or sunbathing on the beach. Flouting the rules will result in a 100-euro fine.
The smaller, southern region of Extremadura also announced on Friday that it would make masks mandatory everywhere.
Spain has curbed one of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreaks – with more than 28,000 deaths – but several small clusters have been detected in recent days, prompting local lockdowns in Catalonia and the Galicia region.
Catalonia recorded the country’s second-highest death toll, while the Balearic Islands have been largely spared.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Clara-Laeila Laudette; Additional reporting by Nathan Allen and Michele Kambas; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Janet Lawrence)