Spain has announced a nationwide partial ban on public smoking as it steps up restrictions to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports.
Health Minister Salvador Illa unveiled a number of new measures, including requiring social distancing while smoking, closing restaurants by 1 a.m., and limiting diners to 10 at a time, the Daily Mail reported. Night clubs and late-night bars also will be closed.
The nation faced a surge with just over 2,900 new cases reported Thursday. The nationwide measures follow similar requirements in Galicia and the Canary Islands about smoking in public spaces.
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The Spanish society of epidemiologists recommended the rules over fears that smoking might help spread the virus, Euronews reported.
“It also points out that the consumption of tobacco in outdoor spaces puts both smokers and non-smokers at risk to become infected with COVID-19,” a summary of the report stated.
In late July, the group advised a smoking ban in private vehicles, public transport stops, university campsuses and outdoor areas.
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Alberto Fernández Villar, head of the pneumology department at Vigo hospital, and a member of the Galician government’s clinical committee, said: “We know smokers with Covid-19 have a greater viral load and are potentially bigger spreaders.”
However, some experts are skeptical that tobacco smoking has any impact on spreading the virus. Very few smokers have been hospitalized by COVID-19, the Mail reports.
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“There is not yet enough solid scientific information to show that in open spaces, tobacco smoke can transmit the disease,” said Fernando Garcia, an epidemiologist at the Carlos III institute for health. “To take such an extreme measure when there is not enough evidence, I think is a bit disproportionate.”