The Spanish government has lifted its last remaining COVID-19 protection measure and officially declared the end of the pandemic. At its weekly meeting today, the cabinet of ministers decided that face masks would no longer be required in hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies and nursing homes.
Nevertheless, health authorities still “highly recommend” the use of face masks to protect the vulnerable: for example, people with symptoms who are in “shared spaces”, and health professionals treating patients with symptoms or working in intensive care units, or emergency and cancer wards.
Earlier this year, the government ended the obligatory use of face masks on public transport, including airlines. In February 2022, the Spanish government had lifted the requirement to wear face masks outdoors, and in April 2022 they were no longer mandatory in indoor spaces.
Speaking at a press conference following the cabinet meeting, minister for health José Miñones said the start of the vaccination program had marked “a before and after” during the pandemic. In Spain, 93 per cent of the population has received a full vaccination dose, with more than 105 million vaccines administered. “Our message must be clear: vaccines save lives,” he said, stressing that Spain’s vaccination strategy had been recognised as an international benchmark.
Miñones said the COVID-19 epidemiological situation had been “balanced” since November 2022 and there were decreasing trends in both the number of deaths and in hospitalisations. Fewer than one per cent of hospital beds were currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, he noted, and their presence in intensive care units had also been “considerably reduced”.
This data, together with a lower virulence of the current coronavirus variant and higher percentages of immunity and vaccination, had led to the conclusion that the disease no longer constituted a health crisis situation in Spain. This conclusion, he said, was in line with what the WHO emergency committee had determined on 5 May and also confirmed the position adopted by experts from Spain’s Centre for the Coordination of Alerts and Health Emergencies). In addition, at the Interterritorial Council meeting on 23 June, all of Spain’s 17 regional autonomous communities had agreed to end the crisis.
Main photo: Cabinet ministerial spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez, flanked by ministers for industry (Héctor Gómez, left) and health (José Miñones, right), announces the government’s decision (Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa).