• 2023.03.13
  • Mask Mandate Lifted
In October last year I wrote, “A decree mandating mask-wearing indoors and outdoors came into force in Spain on the last day of March last year (2021), but it was revised in April this year (2022), and the obligation to wear a mask was lifted except for public transport, medical facilities, and aged care facilities.”

The Spanish government issued an official gazette on Wednesday last week announcing it will lift the mandate on wearing masks on public transport. Figure 1 shows the part of Bulletin 33, Item 1, Page 1799 that mentions lifting the mask mandate:
“Por último, se elimina el uso obligatorio de mascarillas en los medios de transporte…”
“Accordingly, the obligation to wear masks on public transport will be lifted...”

Figure 1

That marked the end of nearly 3 years living with masks since May 2020, and the start of a gradual return to everyday life as it was before COVID. But, it’s not surprising that the mandate on mask-wearing remains in place in medical facilities, nursing care facilities, drug stores, and other settings with an elevated chance of contact with people at high risk of infection or symptoms worsening. All this goes beyond just COVID-19 and is also a means of preventing flu infection, so it will probably stay as a common means of hygiene management.

Although it is no longer mandatory, the decision to wear a mask is up to each person, so I wonder whether the government had to deliberately notify everyone in an official announcement that “from such and such a date, the decision to wear a mask will lie with the individual.” It’s a matter of common sense. This is a needless aside by me, but when you translate “common sense” into Japanese as “常識 (joshiki)”, you would tend to think it means “information that anybody would know,” yet, in this case, it means “behaviors or actions that, from a social perspective, people would think are a matter of course,” which would go without saying, wouldn’t it?

In Madrid, probably about 15% of passengers have been wearing masks on buses and the subway since February 8, when this regulation took effect. That is probably about 3 or 4 people wearing a mask on a bus or a single subway carriage (I myself still wear one). Spaniards have never been in the habit of wearing masks, so before COVID they thought that anyone wearing a mask was suffering from a contagious disease or was a criminal trying not to reveal their face, they considered it really quite suspicious, but as you would expect, nowadays they just think mask wearers are very cautious people and accept them without any sense of something being wrong.

In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has announced that from March 13, the decision to wear a mask will lie with the individual, and even in medical facilities for example, wearing a mask is just recommended, nothing stronger. Yet it seems the Ministry of Education’s understanding is a little different. I get the feeling there is a slight discrepancy between the ministries’ approaches to masks at graduation ceremonies, with the season coming soon.

The “Change of basic policy on COVID-19 infection control measures and mask-wearing at graduation ceremonies” says

〇 For teachers and students from elementary school up, the basic policy is to remove masks throughout the ceremonies, for example, when entering and leaving the venue, during the opening address, congratulatory speeches, etc., during presentation of graduation certificates, and during farewell speeches and replies.
〇 For guests, parents, guardians, etc., restriction of the number of attendees is not required once masks are worn and sufficient distance between seats is achieved to ensure no contact.

February 10, 2023
Higher Education Policy Planning Division, Higher Education Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

School officials not wearing masks, but parents, guardians, and guests wearing masks? What’s going on?
Must be “The decision to wear a mask will lie with the individual.”

Once again, I’m sorry for carping from the sidelines.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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