British expats residing in Spain are facing new challenges as health authorities in Andalucia extend the mandatory use of face masks in all health centres, despite a significant drop in flu and COVID-19 cases.
The stringent enforcement of these rules has prompted local police to conduct inspections, raising concerns among both residents and visitors.
A resident in Marbella claims they were turned away from a family doctor appointment for not wearing a mask.
The individual shared the experience, telling the Olive Press: “He told me to go away and come back with a mask. I said I would run down and grab one but he said he would have to see me over an hour later.
“He warned me that ‘it is still a rule’ in the whole region and that local police had been ‘doing inspections’ to find people breaking the rule and that he or I could be fined.”
The penalties for non-compliance with the face mask mandate are not explicitly stated in the report. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar rules incurred fines ranging from €100 to €6,000 for repeat and serious offenders.
Last Friday, the Junta (regional government) announced that the mask mandate would likely remain in effect for another week if respiratory illness rates continued to fall.
Minister of Health and Consumer Affairs, Catalina Garcia, said: “We are at an incidence rate of 379 per 100,000 inhabitants, and we have been reducing that incidence for two weeks. But we are going to continue for another week with the mandatory use of the mask.”
The decision to prolong the mask requirement comes despite a notable decline in infection rates. The government aims to maintain caution until they are confident in the sustained reduction of cases.
If all goes well, the measure is expected to be lifted by the end of the week.