Deux régions espagnoles attirant des touristes ont introduit jeudi des interdictions de fumer en plein air pour lutter contre le coronavirus, alors qu'un organisme médical national de premier plan appelait à une réponse plus coordonnée et à des sanctions plus sévères pour les briseurs de règles.En vertu d'une loi entrée en vigueur à minuit dans la région nord-ouest de la Galice, il est interdit aux fumeurs de retirer les masques faciaux - qui sont obligatoires - de fumer en public s'il n'est pas possible de maintenir une distance de deux mètres (6,7 pieds). entre les personnes, dans ce que l'on pense être la première restriction de ce type en Europe.
The government in the area, best known for the Catholic pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, said infected smokers could blow droplets carrying the virus as they exhaled.
The regional government of the Spanish Canary Islands quickly followed suit. The archipelago is a tourist hotspot off the coast of northwest Africa.
The smoking ban in the Canaries will come into force on Friday with the mandatory wearing of face masks in all public spaces, regional chief Angel Victor Torres said.
The Canary Islands are the only Spanish region where the use of face masks is not compulsory.
The government had to act “forcefully” in response to an increase in infections, Torres said.
Officials from regions like Madrid and Andalusia have said they are considering similar restrictions on smoking.
Spanish regions are responsible for health policy, which has led to a patchwork of measures to tackle the virus.
‘Disputes and rivalries’
The new measures come as Spain has grappled with an increase in Covid-19 cases since June 21, when it ended its lockdown measures, one of the strictest in the world.
Spain, with a population of 47 million, leads Western Europe with more than 337,000 cases, against nearly 252,000 cases out of the 60 million inhabitants of Italy, which was the first European country to be hit by the virus.
The Spanish Organization of Faculties of Medicine said it was “disappointed and outraged” by the lack of common leadership and called for better coordination between central and regional governments.
Without a “change of course”, “the increase in cases that we have seen will lead us again to lose control” of the pandemic, he added.
“Disputes and rivalries between political forces and institutions, when they should all row in the same direction, lead us to despair. ”
The medical body blamed the increased infection on easy social distancing, family gatherings and visits to nightclubs and bars, and poor living conditions for seasonal migrant farm workers.
He called for tougher penalties for those who break social distancing orders and rules to prevent travel to areas to stop the spread of the virus.
The different levels of Spanish government provide “contradictory” figures on the virus which “give everyone the impression of a lack of coordination in the fight against the pandemic”, he added.
While smoking bans have been applauded by many medical experts, some have questioned its effectiveness.
Fernando Garcia, epidemiologist at the Carlos III Health Institute, told AFP that the measure was “a little disproportionate” given the lack of evidence that “tobacco smoke can transmit the disease”.
The World Health Organization has said that tobacco users may increase the possibility of transmission of the disease because it involves finger-to-lip contact.
Outside of Europe, South Africa has banned the sale of tobacco because it could lead people to abandon social distancing while Jordan has banned smoking in closed public spaces.