The Spanish Government has proposed a mandate for mask-wearing in healthcare settings across the country, in response to the escalating flu and Covid-19 cases in Europe. 

According to Reuters’ report, the latest move comes as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has advised individuals to stay home if unwell and consider mask usage in crowded places or hospitals and health clinics.  

The ECDC’s recommendation aligns with the typical spread of flu during this period, noting that it is currently more prevalent than other respiratory pathogens, including the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.  

Various Spanish regions have already implemented mask requirements for patients, visitors, and staff in hospitals. The central government’s proposal further aims to extend this measure across the country.  

However, regional health policy leaders have not yet agreed, with a decision anticipated on 10 January.  

Spain Health Minister Mónica García said on TVE: “One thing we know will limit epidemics and protect vulnerable people is the mask. It is a common-sense measure, scientifically supported and widely accepted by the public.”  

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The government is also considering policies that would allow individuals with milder cases to self-diagnose and take up to three days off work without a doctor’s note, García added. 

According to the report, Spain, which was one of the last European nations to relax mask mandates post-Covid-19, required masks on public transport until February 2023 and in pharmacies and health centres until July.  

Meanwhile, Italy reported record-high respiratory illness infection rates.  

Data from the National Health Institute (ISS) has revealed that flu-like illness rates, encompassing both flu and Covid-19, have reached “unprecedented” levels in the last fortnight of 2023, surpassing even the epidemic.  

The incidence rate in Italy stood at 17.5 cases per thousand people in the 52nd week, slightly up from 17.7 cases per thousand in the preceding week. 

Last week, hospitals across several US states also reintroduced mask mandates for patients and healthcare providers in response to a rise in Covid cases, seasonal flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses.