Today has been a flurry of news as President of the Canarian Government, Ángel Victor Torres announced new measures at midday as the Cabinet approved compulsory use of masks in ALL space, both enclosed and open-air. Fears of a second outbreak prompt the Canarian Government to take more drastic action.
Even though the Canary Islands have shown the fewest number of COVID-19 incidents in Spain (22,7 per 100.000 habitants) and is the last to impose obligtory use of masks at all times, these measures have been deemed necessary due to an increase in positive cases over the last 14 days.
The Extraordinary Cabinet Meeting held this morning, Thursday 13th August 2020 was to discuss and analyze the current situation and approve a series of measures to reinforce public health and safety and reduce the number of new cases on the islands. After a debate, the conclusion was the obligatory use of masks in all areas, even those where the safety distance of 1,5 metres can be upheld. Other prohibitions have been put in place with regards to bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
On the 31st July 2020, there was a reported 15 active outbreaks in the Canary Islands; 157 confirmed cases and more than 500 contacts that had been identified and quarantined. However, a mere 14 days later, there are 28 active outbreaks, which translates to 268 cases and 745 contacts that have been identified and quarantined. This situation has been a cause for concern and has prompted this decision which is a step back for the Canaries in the fight against COVID-19.
From tomorrow, Friday 14th August 2020 to coincide with the publication of a new decree in the Canary Islands’ Bulletin (BOC), the use of masks in all public areas will be mandatory for everyone over the age of 6. Remember, this applies to open-air spaces as well as enclosed public areas regardless of whether or not the 1,5 metre security distance can be maintained. The use of masks in private areas where persons from other households meet socially (private dinners, barbecues and gatherings) is recommended.
The decree will also stipulate the correct use of masks, which is to say, it must fully cover the nose and mouth at all times. The mask must also fit the wearer’s face correctly (from the nose to the chin) to prevent respiratory secretions.
Bars, Cafeterias and Restaurants: There are changes here as well. In addition to the above mandates, the maximum occupancy of tables or groupings of tables in these establishments is limited to 10 people regardless of the location of the tables (inside or outside). The 1,5 metre security distance between tables or groups of tables remains as before, and the same applies to seating at the bar itself. The establishment must make sure the security distance is shown clearly on signs.
Nightclubs: The only nightclubs permitted to trade are open-air clubs (terraces). They may only open for public consumption whether the customer is seated or standing. Access is permitted to groups of up to 10 people. The maximum occupancy is 75%, respecting the safety distance between patrons and of course, the use of masks.
Bouncers are required to enforce customers to respect the safety distance and to prevent crowds, paying special attention to the entrance and immediate surroundings of the premises. The Government has also prohibited boat parties where the safety distance cannot be maintained. Verbenas and local fiestas continue to be strictly prohibited.
Smoking: Another measure that has been approved is the prohibition to smoke in public areas to include the terraces of restaurants, bars and clubs. This strict measure has been in the making for a number of days in line with WHO recommendations.
The President of the Canarian Government spoke out about personal responsibility in the fight against COVID-19 as the relation between socializing and new contagion has become apparant. The latest outbreaks have mainly affected under 30s and have been linked to socializing in crowds. It is up to all of us to adhere to social distancing requirements to prevent the spread of the virus. Las Palmas has been named as the main source of the new outbreak, where 95% of the cases are linked to nightlife and young people, principally in an area where three nightclubs have been connected to 60 new cases.
The Canarian Government has not ruled out stricter measures if the population does not act responsibly. The “definitive” law is due to be published tomorrow, so if it outlines additional information or restrictions, I will update this post, so please be attentive and stay safe.