Covid, masks and compliance: why my wife and I feel safer in Spain. Letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

I’d like to offer a different perspective in support of Clare Knight’s excellent article “Why I won’t stop wearing a mask post-19 July”.

My wife’s level of immunity is compromised, so we have to take extra care with regard to the pandemic. The wearing of face-masks and observing of social distancing has not been good where we live in Devon, intensified recently with the growing numbers of ‘staycationers’. We managed to ‘escape’ to Spain two weeks ago, with the support of her cancer consultant, who appreciates the benefits to her health of being here. We’d like to offer a few observations as to why we feel safer here than at home in Devon:

1. Brittany ferries had created as safe an environment as possible, with reduced numbers of passengers, and constant reminders of the French Government’s anti-Covid measures; for example, allowing only four people at a time in the onboard lifts, and of course insisting on the wearing of face-masks in all public areas. Our temperature was checked as we disembarked, and we had to hand in a completed ‘passenger locator’ form. The Immigration officer at Santander was welcoming, cordial and friendly as usual, even though this is our first visit as non-EU/Third Country citizens, and during the pandemic.

2. On our two-day drive across Spain to the far-south, everyone – yes everyone – was wearing face-masks everywhere, including children from 5 upwards.

3. Even though the requirement to wear face-masks was relaxed a few days ago, most people continue to wear them out and about, and always in shops. All shop and bar staff, all waiters and so on still wear face-masks all the time.

4. At the village swimming-pool and at the beaches, the covid rules are displayed very clearly, notably re social-distancing and face-masks. At the pool, our temperature is taken on arrival.

5. Popular beaches are marked out in defined spaces, either with small flags or with areas flattened by a tractor to denote socially-distanced spaces for beach-goers to set up their pitches.

6. At our local chemists and supermarkets, face-masks are 1 euro for 10 adult size, and 85 cents for 10 in various child sizes.

7. English friends who live here permanently whose daughter caught Covid but with no symptoms, reported that they were extremely well cared for by their Spanish GP checking on them daily.

8. All the locals we have spoken to have had their vaccinations: no song and dance about it, just done efficiently, and anyone missed has ample opportunity to catch up.

9. The village school stayed open throughout lockdowns, the kids being provided with face-masks by the local authorities; the Spanish government employed 35,000 extra teachers to help keep schools open.

10. We continue to wear our masks out and about out of respect and concern for the safety of the locals. The Spanish are understandably worried about the importation of the Delta variant… so we are testing ourselves regularly with lateral flow test kits.

Our observation is that compliance with anti-Covid regulations here has been much greater than back home; restrictions have been clearly communicated throughout, so after a shaky start the situation leads us to feel safer here. Politicians appearing on Spanish television and TV reporters out and about are still always seen wearing face-masks even now that restrictions have been eased, reinforcing the mask-wearing message. Given what will be happening on July 19 in the UK in spite of the Johnson/Delta variant still running rampant when we get back to Devon we’ll have to restrict our activities again as during the early UK lockdowns… and wear masks whenever out and about.