Spain set to lift outdoor mask requirement as virus count sinks

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People in Spain will no longer have to wear face masks outdoors starting on Thursday, as efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic are ratcheted down due to sinking infection rates, according to government spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez.

The seven-day incidence rate for new infections – which counts the number of infected per 100,000 people – has been falling for weeks and is now at 715. In mid-January, the number was above 1,600.

The number of patients requiring hospital beds has also sunk. Both trends are attributable to high vaccination rates. So far, about 80% of Spain’s population is fully vaccinated. Additionally, 47% have also received a booster shot.

The mask rule went into effect towards the end of 2021 due to rapidly rising infection rates. Exceptions were only allowed for those exercising and those well outside of urban areas.

Even before the rule, compliance with regulations to wear masks outdoors was high. But it has dropped off since, with many people now only putting on masks in crowded pedestrian areas, or to enter stores or eating establishments, all places where masks are required.

A series of other restrictions is also set to lift across the country in the coming days, although multiple establishments will still require those seeking entry to provide proof of either a vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test before they are allowed in.