The mandatory wearing of masks outdoors was reintroduced in December. | Toni Oliver

In Congress on Tuesday, Spain's health minister, Carolina Darias, insisted that the obligatory wearing of masks outdoors is a "strictly temporary" measure. It is necessary "until the indicators reach the appropriate levels". "We are on the right track," she observed, as incidence rates are falling by the day. This means that "we are moving closer" to withdrawing the measure.

Darias was speaking during the debate on the Spanish government's decree that reintroduced the compulsory wearing of masks outdoors. This decree wasn't solely concerned with mask-wearing as it allowed, for example, the temporary recruitment of health specialists with qualifications obtained outside the European Union.

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The minister explained that the mandatory wearing of masks, subject to certain exemptions (e.g. respiratory illness that can be aggravated by wearing one), was taken due to the "very high circulation of the virus". Advice, such as that from the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), was that mask-wearing was "one of the measures that has had the greatest impact on transmission control".

She added that the measure was followed by Portugal and Italy and was endorsed by the World Health Organization. Given the exponential increase in the number of positive cases, the report from the CCAES "highlighted the importance of masks in reducing transmission".

At the time the decree was approved, there was a 14-day cumulative incidence of 784. This peaked at 3,414 on January 21 and has now fallen to 2,443. "It has been one of the prevention measures that has enabled the protection of the citizenship and has been more necessary than ever during the sixth wave."