Masks are still mandatory in enclosed spaces and on public transport. | DAVID SWANSON

Spain lifted a requirement to wear face masks outdoors on Thursday as COVID-19 infections continue to recede from record heights but some Spaniards, wary of contagion, chose to keep the face coverings on.

"With a mask I feel protected, especially when there's a lot of people around," said Julia de Isidro, 50, who works at Spain's National Library.

"I'm going to keep wearing them, but in spaces where there's little chance of catching anything I'll take it off," she told Reuters outside the library on Madrid's tree lined Recoletos avenue.

Like her, many others were sporting disposable masks while on the sidewalks of Madrid on Thursday morning.

The national infection rate as measured over the preceding 14 days has halved in three weeks, falling to 1,692 cases on Wednesday from a peak of 3,397 cases per 100,000 on Jan. 17, prompting authorities across the country to ease restrictions.

Masks are still mandatory in enclosed spaces and on public transport but almost all regions have lifted requirements to show a COVID passport to enter bars and nightclubs.

Paul Latham, a 42-year-old Briton who has been living in Madrid for a year, was pleased to finally be able to leave his house without covering his face.

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"It's great, it's nice to be able to live free again I suppose and not be constantly thinking about wearing a mask. I love it."