Spain has reintroduced mandatory masks in hospitals and health centres amid a surge of flu and Covid cases.
The decision, made only six months after the use of masks ceased to be obligatory in health facilities and pharmacies, has proved controversial with some regional administrations.
But overruling them, Spanish Health Minister Monica Garcia told reporters: “What we have to do is protect the most vulnerable people. It’s just common sense.”
The health ministry ordered wearing a mask in hospitals and healthcare centres and recommended masks in private clinics, pharmacies and other medical facilities such as dentist offices.
Several Spanish regions had already ordered patients, visitors and staff at hospitals to wear masks last week.
Spain’s central government on Monday ordered the extension of that requirement nationwide.
However, some of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, which are normally responsible for health matters, have opposed the move.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the populist president of the Madrid region, said Ms García’s decision to mandate mask use was unnecessary
“Making masks obligatory now shows improvisation,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.
“Madrid has fewer cases because it has been working against flu for a long time: strategies; recommendations; daily monitoring, vaccinations … Imposition through imposition is the resort of a weak manager.”
The regions will be able to lift the requirement if infections fall for two weeks in a row.
Spain was among the last European countries to drop requirements to wear face masks following the Covid pandemic, with people told to wear them on public transport until February 2023, and in health centres and pharmacies until July.