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Covid-19: the Spaniards can drop the mask, but remain cautious

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“Now we can see the smiles, the expressions, speak more naturally, you feel more free!” Rejoices Monica García, 42, leaving a ready-to-wear store on a large commercial avenue in the center of Madrid. Since Wednesday, thanks to the improvement in the health situation, the Spaniards can drop the mask indoors, as in shopping centers, with the exception of public transport, hospitals and retirement homes.

“I kept it automatically”

This measure had been in force since May 20, 2020, with Spain being one of the few countries that had not yet lifted it. However, Ms. García, an English teacher, kept her mask in the store, like the vast majority of people strolling through the shops in the center of the capital on Wednesday.

“I kept it automatically, mostly out of habit”, explains to AFP this Madrilenian, who assures that she will continue to wear it indoors “if there are a lot of people, especially the elderly”. In the same store, Lucia Ginard, 19, for her part, chose to take advantage of the lifting of this restriction without delay. “We have to get used to (the pandemic), otherwise it will never end,” sighs this law student in Mallorca (Balearic Islands), who came to Madrid on vacation.

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Having the right to remove the mask is one thing, but getting rid of social pressure is another. “I went to other stores with the mask, because I thought that we could not enter without (…) since everyone wore it, so I was a little ashamed” to remove it , she says.

According to a survey carried out on Monday and Tuesday on a sample of 500 people and published on Wednesday by the daily El País, almost half of Spaniards (48.5%) feel “uncomfortable or not at all comfortable “Faced with the end of the mandatory mask indoors, more than 54% considering this measure premature.

Blur in business

In the business district of “Cuatro Torres” (Four Towers), most workers exited the metro wearing a mask and kept it on to enter the large office towers that gave this area of ​​northern Madrid its name. . “We are always obliged to wear it in common areas and we are waiting for someone to officially tell us if we can circulate without the mask”, explains Judith Dürfeld, a 37-year-old German who works in a transport company.

Because a vagueness reigns in the world of work, the decree adopted Tuesday by the left government of Pedro Sánchez and published this Wednesday in the Official Journal giving each company the right to maintain the obligation to wear the mask in its premises if it deemed necessary for health reasons.

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Unlike other countries, the obligation to wear a mask has never caused resistance in Spain, including outdoors. “I like the fact that in Spain (the end of the obligation to wear a mask) was not decided under the pressure of public opinion”, remarks Ms Dürfeld. “I don’t feel like people really demanded it,” she adds.

In fact, the obligation to wear a mask has always been very well respected in Spain, which was even one of the rare countries to restore it outdoors just before Christmas, to face the surge of the Omicron variant, before rising this restriction again at the beginning of February. Even today, many people continue to wear it on the street.

Before entering his offices, Maximilian Areinamo, a 34-year-old marketing employee, does not hide his relief, because for him, the end of the compulsory mask “symbolizes a bit the beginning of the end of the pandemic”.

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