Starting this week, face masks will be required in hospitals and healthcare centers across Spain due to an increase in respiratory illnesses. Despite opposition from the majority of Spain‘s 17 autonomous regions, the Spanish minority coalition government has implemented these measures, arguing for their obligatory nature rather than being recommended.
Rise in flu and COVID cases
This decision is a response to the strain on hospitals caused by a rise in cases of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses nationwide. Health Minister Mónica García emphasized the simplicity and importance of the measure, stating, “We are talking about putting on a mask when you enter a health center and taking it off when you leave. I don’t think it is any drama. It is a basic and simple measure of the first order.”
Mandatory masks policy
Already, six regions in Spain had previously adopted this mandatory mask policy, and the use of masks has become common in public spaces and transportation, as well as in health centers over recent months.
In the United States, hospitals in New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts have mandated masks for patients and providers to prevent potential staff shortages due to illness, as explained by New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.
Surge in other countries
Greece has reintroduced advisory recommendations for wearing masks indoors amid a surge in Covid cases. In the UK, concerns are rising over the new BA.2.86 coronavirus variant, with scientists warning that the government may have “let its guard down.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, face coverings are required in clinical areas of three Leicester hospitals, including Leicester Royal Infirmary, the Leicester General, and Glenfield Hospital. However, masks are no longer legally mandated in non-clinical spaces such as offices, lifts, restaurants, and corridors, according to the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
Professor Lawrence Young of the University of Warwick expressed concerns about the current situation, stating, “At the moment, we’ve let our guard down, and we’re quite blind to what’s going on.”