It will be the Ministry of Health, who, together with the autonomous communities, will make the decision on the relaxation of the use of the mask in the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (Cisns). A “feasible” option for mid-June or early July, as pointed out earlier this week by the director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, who “clarified that the specific date will have to be assessed with other parameters.”
The epidemiological situation added to the vaccination rates will be decisive to make the use of this sanitary element more lax, which became mandatory indoors on May 20, 2020 and outdoors just a month later, on June 18, after the approval of the royal decree law of the ‘new normality’. The current scenario of the pandemic is completely different from a year ago, but even so, is this the right time to start putting the mask aside? Four experts answer this question.
For Amós García Rojas, section chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Service of the General Directorate of Public Health of the Canary Islands Health Service and president of the Spanish Association of Vaccination, two approaches should be taken into account before making any decision. «First of all, you have to know how to set the times to start talking about these issues. I explain. After the cessation of the state of alarm, during the following two weekends there were absolutely worrying images of unsupportive and irresponsible behaviors that, fortunately, were the work of a small minority of brains. But of course, what these images reinforce is the idea of understanding that if on top of that there is still this profile of behaviors, we start talking to everyone about the possibility of leaving the masks, because it does not seem that it is the right time, “he says .
Likewise, García Rojas considers that the focus of the debate should be to achieve the immunization of more than 50% of the target population – until yesterday, 21.9% had been achieved -. “This will be achieved when it can be achieved, but it is from there that we could start talking about stripping ourselves of the masks,” says the epidemiologist before adding that this measure “must be accompanied by a clear reduction in the weight of the pandemic ». In any case, “it will not be overnight, first it will be outdoors, but it will remain indoors,” he clarifies.
Antonio Sierra, professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of La Laguna (ULL) and member of the committee of specialists that advises the Government of the Canary Islands in relation to the health crisis, also emphasizes the importance of vaccination figures. “Until we achieve group immunity, the masks should continue,” emphasizes the one who calls for prudence. “We are making positive progress against the pandemic, but the virus continues and we cannot forget that it has a presence beyond the West, such as India or Southeast Asia,” he emphasizes, “therefore we must be prudent, because that group immunity will open us a door to mobility with the vaccination certificate ”.
From Sierra’s point of view, 70% of the population with the complete inoculated vaccine regimen is a good figure to begin to relax the use of the sanitary instrument in open spaces. “In the interiors the restrictions will be gradually relaxed, with increases in capacity and people at tables”, explains the professor. “As soon as we get to group immunity, we will see how the virus moves and, if everything goes as planned, we will be able to open our hands with other measures.”
On June 24, the day of San Juan in which the Foundational Festivities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are celebrated, it is the date on which he estimates that in the Archipelago you will be able to walk down the street with your face exposed Beatriz González López- Valcárcel, professor of Health Economics at the ULPG and also a member of the aforementioned committee of experts. “They are already calling to vaccinate 40 and 50 and many of them will get the one-dose Janssen vaccine, so really in open spaces and keeping the distance the mask can be removed.”
Of course, you will have to carry this sanitary garment in your pocket. «If you meet a friend on the street and you stop to talk a meter away, then you do have to wear her unless you are both vaccinated. These are the recommendations made by the United States CDC, which establishes that vaccinated with vaccinated can be without a mask in the open air without problem, “says González López-Valcárcel, who also does not see so far that this possibility extends to the interior of the locals. “Maybe for fall it could be,” he says.
For Lluís Serra Majem, rector of the ULPGC where he is also a professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, this is also “a good time to start considering” to stop using masks in open spaces. “Right now we do not have enough vaccinated rates, but with 70% of the immunized population it can be done outdoors and even indoors where you can be sure that people are vaccinated, since taking it in this situation doesn’t make much sense. ‘ However, “do not rush.”
And the fact is that the also member of the group of professionals who advises the regional Executive believes that “people are used” to wearing this complement and “they do it well, without problem, and we must not start to generate doubts.” Similarly, Serra believes that regardless of when the use of masks is relaxed, there will be many people who will continue to wear it voluntarily in certain places such as on an airplane. «It is a habit that many people will keep. We must not forget that we have not had the flu and the children have not had snot this year, because the mask has been good not only for the coronavirus, but also for other viral-respiratory diseases, “he asserts.
For now, the study Cofares Trends One year of Covid-19 (III): Habits about the use of the mask carried out between February 23 and March 1 of this year reinforces this opinion. And it is that it states that seven out of ten Spaniards will continue to use the mask in situations in which the chances of contagion may be higher, such as public transport and hospitals, although this is no longer mandatory.