OVIEDO, Spain

As the novel coronavirus continues to loosen its deadly grip on Spain and the country eases lockdown restrictions, masks were made obligatory in public spaces on Thursday.

For the fifth day in a row, Spain registered fewer than 100 deaths, and the Health Ministry confirmed 48 more people fell victim to the disease on Thursday — the lowest daily death toll since early March.

In total, Spain has confirmed 27,940 COVID-19 deaths.

The number of new infections also fell to 344 on Thursday, down from 416 on Wednesday. In total, Spain has confirmed over 233,000 infections.

As of Thursday, the Spanish government made the use of face masks legally mandatory in all situations where two meters of distance between people cannot be guaranteed.

The law applies to outdoor spaces like sidewalks or parks or enclosed areas that are open to the public such as shops.

Children younger than 6 years old or people with certain health issues are exempt.

According to the law, exceptions apply to eating and drinking, but the Health Ministry has also said masks are not required when exercising.

The Spanish government has set the price for basic surgical masks at €0.96 ($1.05) each.

On Wednesday, Fernando Simon, Spain’s chief epidemiologist, explained why the government advised the general public against mask use during the peak of the crisis.

“In a situation where masks were scarce, we had to be very prudent when making recommendations,” he said at a press conference.

The World Health Organization does not currently recommend the widespread use of masks to fight COVID-19.

Simon said the use of masks is not “a key factor” but does become important when people are less than two meters apart.

When asked about the enforcement, he said: “We have to be reasonable”, and recommended people to carry masks with them in their pockets even if they do not think they will be in a situation where social distancing is an issue.

Anti-government protests have been occurring nightly for more than a week in the country. On Thursday night, for the first time, the protestors will be legally obligated to wear masks.

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