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Spain to review law obliging wearing face masks on beach, one day after approving it

Catalan health minister says Madrid decision is "outrageous" and makes clear that norm will not change in Catalonia

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31 March 2021 03:57 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

The Spanish government will review the new law obliging the public to wear face masks in all public spaces, now including beaches and swimming pools. The U-turn was announced on Wednesday, only one day after the new rule was published in the official gazette (BOE).

Spain's health minister, Carolina Darias, said that her department, as well as regional health ministries, will carry out a "technical" analysis on the law’s wording and make decisions next Wednesday. 

She said officials will look into the "legal room" that enables the law to be executed in the most "harmonized and contextualized way," possible, perhaps suggesting that it might already need updating since the bill was first written in June 2020, for the first de-escalation. 

Madrid faced widespread criticism from territories as they watched the regulations that they had been enforcing for months be potentially overridden in a meeting held between central and regional authorities on Wednesday.

"Collision" between Spanish and Catalan regulations

For instance, the Catalan government requested a report from its legal services on whether the new law passed by Spain in fact "collides" with the Catalan one. 

On July 8, 2020, the administration based in Barcelona had already passed a measure that included mask-wearing in all public outdoor and indoor places.

The Catalan norm did not explicitly mention beaches and swimming pools, but senior health department official Xavier Llebaria explained that it would be applied "with common sense."

He then said that there was "obviously" no need to wear it while swimming or sunbathing, but that it would make sense when entering the beach area or taking a walk on the sand.

Yet, the only exceptions published in the new Spanish law are medical reasons, individual exercise outdoors, activities that are incompatible with face mask use, or in extreme “force majeure” cases.  

On Wednesday, Vergés asked Madrid to not "confuse the public" and clarified that the Catalan law is already in operation and includes exceptions for activities "incompatible" with face masks, such as bathing in the sea. 

"This is nothing new for us," she said, making clear that the new norm will not change anything to the current way the face mask regulations are applied.

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