Spain proposes face masks on beaches only while strolling and when distancing not possible

Idea to be discussed in coordination meeting with regional governments who had complained about latest regulations

Image of Sitges beach on March 28, 2021 (by Gemma Sànchez)
Image of Sitges beach on March 28, 2021 (by Gemma Sànchez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

April 7, 2021 12:58 PM

The Spanish government has proposed only using face masks on the beach when strolling and keeping a safe distance is not possible.

This means that the protection would not be required when swimming in the sea, rivers, lakes or swimming pools – nor would it be compulsory when practicing aquatic sports or when relaxing before and after swimming, meaning when sunbathing.

This is the proposal that Madrid will put forward in their health coordination meeting with regional governments taking place this Wednesday evening.

This comes after several cabinets, including Catalonia's, complained about the latest law regulating face masks approved on March 30, which required their use in all public open-air spaces as well as public indoor areas, even when social distancing is possible, as was already the case in Catalonia.

Yet, what sparked controversy was the fact that the law does not include exemptions for certain places, meaning that it also applies while on the beach or at swimming pools.

The Catalan regulations passed last July did not explicitly mention exceptions, but health officials then made clear 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.

"Collision" between Spanish and Catalan regulations

On March 31, the Spanish government announced it would review the new law. This U-turn was made public just one day after the new rule was published in the official gazette (BOE).

Madrid had 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.

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