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Catalonia is lifting the mandatory use of face masks in schools 24 hours ahead of the rest of Spain.
As reported last week, Spain’s central government is planning to lift the compulsory wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces from Wednesday 20 April. The changes will be approved at a cabinet meeting scheduled for Tuesday 19 April, and are likely to come into force the following day, after they are published in Spain’s Official State Gazette (BOE).
Last week the Spanish government was still evaluating maintaining the use of face masks beyond 20 April on all public transport, as well as at hospitals, health centres and care homes. But in shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, indoor cultural venues and schools it is understood that face masks will no longer be compulsory.
In a short statement issued on Thursday, however, the health department of the Catalan government announced that it is ‘is finalising a resolution to make the use of masks more flexible for primary and secondary school students from 19 April, coinciding with the resumption of classes after Easter. The resolution will be published in the next DOGC [Catalan government’s gazette] which, when we meet on Easter holidays, will be released on Monday to Tuesday night.’
Catalonia’s regional health chief, Josep Maria Argimon, justified the decision stating that he sees ‘no sense’ in students having to wear masks at school for a day after the Easter holidays, and then stop using them the next day.
Spokeswoman for the Catalan government, Patrícia Plaja, had already advanced the intention that primary and secondary pupils in schools across Catalonia would not have to wear a mask in the classroom from next Tuesday.
The decision of the Catalan authorities only affects primary and secondary schools. Face masks in all other indoor public scenarios will still be compulsory in Catalonia until the lifting is effective throughout the country.
Former Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa, and now head of the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – part of the PSOE – has accused the Catalan government of ‘breaking unity’ among the country’s regional health authorities by ending the compulsory use of face masks 24 hours earlier than the rest of the country.
Illa said that advancing the lifting of the measure ‘diminishes a consensus reached between the state and the autonomous regions’ according to technical health criteria.
Illa, who was health minister during the hardest period of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, blamed the Catalan government of ‘endangering the unity that has served to deal with the pandemic so far’.