Spain street masks dropped but most faces stay covered

A few smiles were visible in Madrid on Saturday but most kept their faces covered as Spain dropped its requirement for people to wear masks in the street. It’s been a legal requirement to wear a mask in the open air for just over a year, with offenders risking a fine, but in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square, few could be seen with their faces uncovered.

“I really like walking around and I sweat a lot so for me, taking off the mask is a pleasure,” smiles 76-year-old Antonia Maldonado.

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She and her husband, both in their 70s, are among the few people walking through the busy square without masks under a cloudless blue sky.

Masks first became obligatory on public transport in early May 2020 in a bid to reduce Covid-19 infections, and within weeks were made compulsory in the street for anyone aged six and above.

People may now remove their masks in the open air as long as they keep 1.5 metres (5 feet) away from each other, but should cover up if that’s not possible, health officials said this week.

And masks remain obligatory on public transport or in taxis or cars carrying people who don’t live together.

“I think it will be a very slow process for people to feel comfortable not using the mask in public, indoors or wherever,” said Gustavo Rodriguez, a 34-year-old systems engineer visiting from Miami who was not wearing a mask.

The decision was approved by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s cabinet on Thursday and comes as vaccination rates rise and infections continue to fall.

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