Compulsory mask-wearing reinstated in local health facilities

In response to a significant surge in flu cases and respiratory infections, the Valencian Community has reinstated compulsory mask-wearing in hospitals and health centres as of Friday 5th January. The decision, enacted by the regional Ministry of Health, comes as a precautionary measure to curb the escalating spread of respiratory illnesses.
The move follows the national government’s decision last July to lift the mask mandate, initially imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, after being in effect for over three years. The resurgence of respiratory infections, however, prompted authorities to reinstate the mask requirement in healthcare settings.
Between December 25 and 31, the incidence of flu quadrupled in the Valencia region, surging from 142 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous week (December 18 to 24) to 551, as reported by the health ministry. Concurrently, cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also increased from 192.8 to 258.2 per 100,000 people. Although the Covid-19 infection rate slightly decreased from 247.3 to 222.2 cases per 100,000, health officials remain vigilant.
The Health Ministry has outlined specific situations where mask-wearing is mandatory within hospital and health centre premises. This includes symptomatic individuals in shared spaces, professionals caring for symptomatic cases, emergency situations in hospital and primary care, waiting rooms where patients and families gather, and other scenarios aimed at protecting vulnerable populations. The management of health departments, guided by their protocols and recommendations from Preventive Medicine services, may further specify additional areas for mandatory mask use.
Furthermore, individuals working in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and those interacting with vulnerable patients are obligated to wear masks. A national family doctor group echoed these concerns on Thursday, urging the reintroduction of mask-wearing amidst rising infection rates. Fears of an uptick in cases following the Three Kings holiday weekend and the upcoming reopening of schools have intensified the call for preventive measures.
Starting Monday (8th January), health centres throughout the Valencian Community will also offer a ‘walk-in’ service, allowing individuals to receive flu and Covid-19 vaccinations without the need for a prior appointment. This initiative aims to facilitate broader access to vaccinations, contributing to the region’s efforts to mitigate the impact of respiratory infections. Authorities are emphasizing the importance of collective responsibility in adhering to these measures to safeguard public health.

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