Portuguese Parliament approves mandatory use of masks in busy outdoor areas

LISBON, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Portuguese Parliament approved on Friday a bill that imposes the mandatory use of a mask on the street and public spaces, as requested by the government as a measure to contain the rise in coronavirus cases.

Portugal registered on Thursday another 3,270 coronavirus infections, a record single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing the country's total cases so far to 109,541. Thursday also saw 16 deaths from COVID-19 confirmed in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 2,245 since March, according to data from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).

According to the bill, the use of a mask is mandatory for all people "over ten years old to access, circulate or stay in public spaces and roads whenever the physical distance recommended by health authorities are impossible."

The obligation between "people from the same household, when they are not in the proximity of third parties" can be waived or by means of a "medical certificate" that the clinical condition or cognitive impairment does not allow the use of masks.

It is also not mandatory to wear a mask when "it is incompatible with the nature of the activities that people are carrying out."

The new rule stipulates fines of between 100 and 500 euros (118 and 590 U.S. dollars) for those who disrespect the measure, with inspection by "security forces and municipal police".

The mandatory use of masks in open spaces will be in effect for a period of 70 days, when it will then be reassessed as to the need for its renewal for a new period, and equipment such as visors or the like, are not accepted as substitutes.

It is foreseen in the law approved by the Parliament that a public awareness campaign will be carried out on the importance of mask wearing in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization, face masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress COVID-19 transmission and save lives.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreaks in early 2020, wearing masks in public has been widely accepted in Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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