Masks have been a great symbol in the fight against the pandemic for the convenience of their use and as a symbol of all the things that have changed. For a time, it was said that it was almost impossible for people in individualistic societies in Europe to agree to wear them always and at all times unlike in countries like Japan and South Korea. If they did not arrive from the first minute, it was because there were not enough in any European country. Then they were assumed naturally, except in the United States and the United Kingdom, where libertarian sectors of the right or simply ultras defined them as a muzzle with which it was intended to muzzle free citizens. Even in Madrid, the territory where the PP has copied many of those ideas, the regional authorities accepted them without problems.
Like many of the things we have witnessed, there was a certain contradiction in the requirement for outdoor use. People wore the mask when walking down the street, a low risk situation in general, and took them off to enter a bar or restaurant, when enclosed spaces are the most dangerous places. The reality is that they were necessary and they helped people to understand that they were facing an exceptional situation. It was also one of those measures that governments and parliaments could take at no cost to their budgets. Not how to reinforce Primary Care, to give an example.
Thanks to the good rate of vaccination, governments have had to limit the obligation. It was not possible to continue maintaining a positive or almost euphoric speech with the constant increase in the number of immunized and to continue imposing the mask when leaving home. Politicians can be wrong, but the minimum that is asked of them is that they be consistent. The decision was to become a royal decree that was approved by Parliament. A procedure with a vote whose result was suddenly not so clear, because the PP and Vox do not want to give the Government even a minute of respite and some regional governments had begun to change their minds with the spectacular increase in infections in recent weeks .
It is another sign that politics does not follow the same paths as the real world. In the end, the change went ahead by 180 votes in favor, 90 against and 78 abstentions. Almost half of the House decided that if the Government says that the Sun rises in the East, it is most likely that it is immersed in a conspiracy to move it.
The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, presented vaccinations as the best argument to adopt the measure: 51% of the population with the complete regimen, 63% with at least one dose. He remembered something obvious. “The masks are still mandatory, except in very specific cases” (that is, on the street and as long as there are no crowds). All those images of a lot of people without covering their mouth and nose are situations that “have no legal protection.”
It did not extend to speak of the recent increase in infections. The government has decided that this does not affect the idea of success well. It is true that the incidence no longer has the same influence as before on the number of hospitalized. It is also obvious that this number has already started to grow in all communities.
For the same reason but the other way around, the PP did not speak of vaccination in its response and painted a gloomy picture due to the latest data. It was in the explanation where the deputy Elvira Velasco let her imagination run. He argued that it is “the false security” produced by Pedro Sánchez’s statements that has led to this increase in infections. Look for a young man in his twenties (incidence in 14 days in those ages: 1,866) who makes his decisions about leisure in summer based on what a Prime Minister says. It’s going to be hard to find someone.
The plenary session served for the PP to offer another of its usual shows in the pandemic, which consists of accusing the Government of one thing after having denounced it to the contrary days or weeks before. Or sometimes in the same speech. With the increase in infections, now it is time to accuse him of relaxing the entry of tourists “when he already knew that the Delta variant was more contagious.” The PP never opposed the arrival of tourists as soon as possible, and when the issue turned into a political controversy in Madrid in March by a handful of French doing eses at night, Díaz Ayuso received them with open arms. “They came to move the Madrid economy,” he said, and also they surely liked museums more than bars.
In fact, several regional governments, including that of Ayuso, demanded several weeks ago that it was not forbidden to go out without a mask. The new incidence data has scared some. That didn’t stop them from opening nightclubs not too long ago. For this reason, the PNV did not support the new decree. He could not since the lehendakari had asked Sánchez by letter to continue the masks outdoors and, in an unusual gesture of humor in sober Urkullu, the return of the state of alarm. You have to be an incorrigible dreamer to request it after the Constitutional Court ruling.
Esquerra’s representative was more realistic. Francisco Xavier Eritja acknowledged that until recently the Generalitat was asking to stop imposing the mask. Hence his abstention from voting. He did not hide that right now the numbers for Catalonia are scary because of “the critical situation in recent weeks.” Wednesday’s data there shows an incidence of 1,239 (the national average is 644).
Congress consumed another debate more related to the pandemic with the feeling that politicians have said everything they had to say and that no more can be expected. Now only the recommendations remain and wait for the vaccines to take effect. The attempts of some regional governments to regain the curfew in the face of the summer festive crowds have little future, once the Constitutional Court has dynamited in Spain the most logical legal strategy to face a pandemic. There remains the consolation of knowing that the judges cannot do anything to force us to wear a mask on the street. They are capable of giving us another scare.