Madrid            -       Madrid moved to make mask-wearing obligatory at all times in public Tuesday as Spain grappled with the fallout from a spike in virus cases that has triggered several international travel warnings.

Wearing masks in public has been obligatory in Spain since May 21 where social distancing was not possible, but in recent weeks almost all of its 17 regions have made it compulsory at all times, with Madrid one of the last regions to follow suit.  The announcement came as Spain said it was grappling with 361 active outbreaks involving 4,100 new cases, with the numbers more than tripling within a fortnight.

Britain is enforcing a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals from Spain, while France and Germany have warned against travel to the worst-hit areas in the northeast.

“From now on, we are going to make mask-wearing obligatory in all public spaces although we are aware that the vast majority of Madrid residents are already doing so,” regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso said.

The move will now mean people have to wear masks even while having a drink at a bar terrace, where gatherings will now be limited to groups of 10.  Ayuso also recommended imposing a limit of 10 on all gatherings, whether in public or at a private home, in a move echoing restrictions in the first phase of the rollback.

Bar terraces and nightclubs will have to respect a 1:30 am (2330 GMT) curfew and customers will have to show ID and leave their contact details to ensure traceability if there is an outbreak linked to the establishment.

“The key now is to avoid being locked down again, to put a battery of emergency measures on the table to avoid going backwards,” she said.  Although badly hit when the virus first took hold, Madrid has been less affected by the recent outbreaks, but has nonetheless decided to prepare a field hospitals at a huge conference centre on the city’s eastern outskirts.

The virus has so far claimed 28,434 lives in Spain, making it the fourth worst-hit country in Europe after the United Kingdom, Italy and France.  In terms of cases, Spain has counted 278,782 infections in the second-highest European figure after the UK, where more than 300,000 people have caught the virus.