Photo - EPA
Spain appears to have embraced the more widespread wearing of masks to combat the spread of Coronavirus although according to the report below in The Times.
The question remains, particularly for essential care workers, is it a case of 'Masks On' or Masks Off' - and how can such an important safety issue be left for individual workers to decide?
Workers in Spain voice fears after coronavirus restrictions are eased
Pablo Sharrock - The Times
A number of workers in Spain returned to their jobs yesterday amid hopes that the pandemic had peaked as the daily death toll resumed its downward trend and new infections fell to the lowest level in three weeks.
Police handed out face masks at metro and railway stations as workers headed off to construction and manufacturing jobs that were previously categorised as non-essential.
Madrid’s public commuter system registered an increase of 35 per cent in passengers compared with last week, Ángel Garrido, the capital’s transport chief, said. However, he added that face masks were available only at about one in five metro stations.
Masks were given out by police at only a fifth of Madrid’s metro stations yesterday - EPA
The Ministry of the Interior has left it to the government’s delegations in each community to decide how they organise distribution of the ten million face masks that have been promised.
The easing of restrictions has not been welcomed in all quarters. Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, has called the move the end of economic hibernation imposed on the country to bring the spread of the virus under control. Yet the stance has been criticised by regional government chiefs and scientists who believe it to be premature.
Mr Sánchez said that his government must balance its response to the virus crisis, which threatens to destroy lives and at the same time destroy the country’s economic and social fabric.
On Sunday he said that the decision to restart some sectors of the economy had been taken after consulting scientific experts. Any further relaxation would depend upon gains against the virus, he added. “We are still far from victory, from the moment when we can pick up our normal lives again, but we have made the first decisive steps in the path towards victory.”
Retail stores and services must stay closed and office staff should keep working from home, the government has ordered.
There were mixed feelings for some people heading back to work. Genis Para, a metal worker from Capellades in Catalonia, said: “My company let me know on Friday via a Whatsapp chat that we would be returning to work on Monday. Most of us want to go back. We need the money and we also have to make up for lost days. However, I don’t think that anyone should be returning to work just yet. This isn’t a normal situation.”
Rafael Antunez, a labourer in Pozuelo, Madrid, told El País: “I don’t know why the heck we have to go back if there is no way of maintaining a safe distance from each other. I just hope that my colleagues wear masks. If not, we are all screwed.”
A builder from Simancas, Madrid, one of about 1.7 million entitled to resume work in the construction sector, did not want to give his name but shared his scepticism about the government recommendations: “There’s a lot of protocol with very little focus on reality. This is simply because it is physically impossible for people in my line of work to maintain a safe distance or wear a face mask for eight hours. Our manager, who wrote these protocols, knows perfectly well that they aren’t all completely applicable.”
The death toll from the virus rose to 17,628 yesterday, up 656 from the previous day, according to the health ministry. The number of confirmed cases was 169,628, up from 166,019.
There could be serious effects from long-term confinement, Joan Ramón Villalbí, an epidemiologist, has said. “There are people living from day to day and after so much time with no activity, will not have money to buy food. This is also going to have consequences on health in the medium term and the psychological suffering will have an impact.”
Overall, 650,000 people have been sanctioned by police for failing to observe the lockdown, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, the interior minister, said. At the outset the government pledged to honour the salaries of all workers, framing it as a loan to be repaid after the emergency. This would be achieved, ministers said, by workers making up for their lost hours with overtime and not taking paid holiday.