As confirmed cases of coronavirus begin to surge across Spain, one region has made the decision to ban smoking in public places. Local media also reports that the Canary Islands has announced similar measures where social distancing can not be achieved.
Spanish TV network RTVE reported that Andalusia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid are also considering enforcing bans.
Galicia, in the northeast of the country, has put in place a new rule which makes smoking in public an offence under coronavirus measures.
The ban is in force from August 13 and applies to the entire community as well as tourists.
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands soon followed suit.
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In the holiday hotspot smoking is now banned in outdoor places where a safe social distancing of two meters can not be observed.
At a press conference, acting president of the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóo said the decision was made to reinforce protective measures against the spread of the virus.
According to local media, the president cited tobacco smoke as posing a “risk of infection” of the virus, as well as encouraging people to remove their masks in order to smoke.
“When you are in the street and you are circulating among people without being able to keep your distance, the logical thing is not to be able to smoke,” he said.
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The move is supported by research issued by the nations’ ministry of health last month which looked at the link between smoking and the spread of COVID-19.
“Current evidence indicates that smoking is associated with… higher risk of developing a severe form of symptoms,” the report said.
“Smoking with no limits… with people close by and without any social distancing [poses] a high risk of infection,” regional President Alberto Núñez Feijóo said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Though specific consequences for smoking have not been widely reported on, if the measures are anything like existing coronavirus prevention regulations, those found to be flouting could face huge fines.
Tourists and residents found not wearing face masks could be slapped with fines of up to €100.
Alberto Fernández Villar, the head of pneumology at Vigo hospital in Galicia who has been advising local officials said: “We know that this is an unpopular measure for smokers.”
He added: “But I believe that we are in an exceptional context, with a disease which we don’t know how it will behave in the fall and winter, and any reasonable measure, which has been argued and that protects public health should be applauded.”
Currently, Britons are being advised not to visit Spain, the Balearic or Canary Islands amid the ongoing pandemic.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) states: “From 27 July, the FCO advise against all non-essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks in the country.”
It adds: “The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave at this time. Travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.
“If you are returning from Spain you will be required to self-isolate on your return to the UK, but the FCO is not advising you to cut short your visit.“