The Spanish government has ruled that mask use will remain compulsory in public places where social distancing cannot be guaranteed once the country moves into the “new normality”.

The law, unchanged from the one which currently applies, will  now remain valid after the final phase of the lockdown exit plan expires on 21st June (if the Canarian government does not decide to leave Phase 3 earlier).  Failure to comply could be subject to fines of €100, and it will be up to local authorities to enforce and administer the law.

Exemptions apply to children under the age of six, those with respiratory difficulties which are aggravated by mask use; those carrying out exercise such as running, and when eating or drinking.

Mask use is increasingly becoming customary in indoor public spaces throughout Spain. In the open air, fewer masks are seen, but  they are still common in town centres and are likely to become standard in areas where people cannot remain two metres apart, such as markets.

Mask use on public transport has been  compulsory in Spain for over two months, and the country’s proactive stance on the issue contrasts with other countries, such as the UK where masks will only be obligatory on public transport from next Monday.

Economic and environmental effects

Surgical-style masks are available at chemists shops for 90 cents, and are now increasingly available in supermarkets and other outlets as well. However, the ACU, a Spanish consumer association, has called for further subsidies, claiming that masks will now become a significant extra cost for households. They calculate that a family of four could spend up to €120 a month on disposable surgical masks. Vulnerable people who wish to use the more protective fpp2 masks face even higher costs, as these masks cost an average of €6 each.

Disposable face masks are also increasingly  becoming an environmental hazard and the Canarian government recently launched a campaign to educate people about throwing them away correctly. As the material is potentially contaminating, all masks and gloves should be thrown away with the usual, non-recyclable rubbish, where they will be destined for landfill.  For these reasons, it’s highly likely that we’ll see a rise in reusable, washable fabric face masks.