Spain maintains face masks on public transport

Brussels, Dec 9 (EFE).- Masks will still be required on public transport in Spain, health minister Carolina Daris said Friday, despite criticism from airlines.

“We have always adopted the decisions of the experts and, therefore, until the experts make a contrary pronouncement, we will wait,” said Darias before entering a meeting of European health ministers in Brussels.

The compulsory use of masks on public transport has been abandoned by several European countries, with Portugal, Cyprus and Italy lifting the measure over the summer, while France, the Netherlands and Belgium have withdrawn the mandate but still recommend passengers wear masks in crowded spaces.

Germany still requires masks to be worn on long distance trains, and several federal states have kept mask wearing rules in place ahead of winter and the anticipated surge in cases.

Last month, Iberia airlines’ corporate communications director Juan Cierco criticized the Spanish government’s refusal to lift the mask mandate, saying the rule would harm the tourism sector and put off visitors from traveling to Spain.

“We should remove the masks because this is affecting tourism and business. Many international passengers have told us that they prefer to fly to other destinations or on other airlines” because of the rules, Cierco told Spanish radio.

Despite the complaints, Spain’s health authorities believe the requirement to wear a face mask on public transport should be maintained throughout the country given the seasonal spike in respiratory illnesses, even if they are not required in crowded places such as shopping centers, cinemas and restaurants.

“We are now in a period of significant increase of both syncytial viruses and influenza and bronchiolitis,” said Darias.

She added that the rule would be lifted once the government’s coronavirus taskforce assess that the contagion is less widespread.

“This minister would like nothing more than to share good news, but I think it is important to maintain the culture of care and always go hand in hand with the experts.”EFE jaf/aef/ks

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