MADRID (AP) — Face masks will be mandatory in hospitals and healthcare centers in Spain starting Wednesday due to a surge in respiratory illnesses, the Health Ministry said.
The new leftist minority coalition government is imposing the measure despite opposition from most of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
“We are talking about putting on a mask when you enter a health center and taking it off when you leave,” Health Minister Mónica García told Cadena Ser radio late Monday.
“I don’t think it is any drama. It is a basic and simple measure of the first order,” she added.
Spain’s hospitals have come under immense pressure in recent weeks following a spike in cases of flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
García’s ministry decided to impose the measure after failing to reach an agreement with regional health authorities, many of whom argued that mask use should be recommended but not obligatory.
Regional governments are in charge of healthcare although the central government can intervene if it deems it necessary.
Six regions have already introduced the measure and masks have been commonly used on streets and public transport and in health centers in recent months.
Spain declared a formal end to the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic last July, saying people no longer needed to wear masks in health and care centers and pharmacies. Over the previous two years, Spain had gradually ended mandatory mask wearing, first in public and then on public transport.
The country registered more than 14 million cases and some 120,000 deaths from the coronavirus.