Mask wearing outdoors has been mandatory since Christmas Eve. | Europa Press

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Spain's health minister, Carolina Darias, announced on Friday that the obligatory wearing of masks outdoors will no longer apply from next week.

Darias explained that the matter will be discussed with regional health ministers at the Inter-Territorial Council for the National Health System on Monday. The cabinet will meet on Tuesday, with the intention being that the government publishes the revision of the rule in the Official Bulletin on Wednesday. It will then take effect from Thursday.

The government decree mandating the wearing of masks outdoors was issued in December and came into effect on Christmas Eve. It was in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and was a measure that was widely criticised. While the criticism came from political parties, some health experts also questioned the necessity. They argued, as they long had, that the principal focus of contagion was in enclosed spaces and at social or family gatherings with an absence of social distancing, mask-wearing mask and ventilation.

When she was in Mallorca last week, Darias stated that the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors would be a requirement for the "minimum essential time". She was in favour of the measure being relaxed "as soon as possible".

Her announcement on Friday came two days after Congress ratified the December decree, a law that made Spain one of a few European countries to have such a rule.

The 14-day cumulative incidence has been falling - on Thursday it was down a further 144 to 2,420 - and Darias pointed out that the indicators "are improving". This is especially the case with the indicator showing the level of circulation of the virus.