Portugal's popular Madeira makes masks compulsory in public

LISBON (Reuters) - Wearing masks in public will be compulsory at all times on the popular Portuguese island of Madeira from Aug. 1, the local government announced on Tuesday, making it the first region in the country to adopt such a measure against COVID-19.

Madeira, popular for its wine and green landscape, has managed to keep its tally of coronavirus cases low since the pandemic started. It has reported 105 infections, with no new cases since Saturday.

“The use of the mask is exactly to show those who visit us the reason why we have these results,” said the region’s general health secretary, Pedro Ramos.

The use of masks in closed spaces and public transport is already compulsory in Madeira but now those on the streets must wear masks too.

Last year, Madeira hosted around 1.5 million visitors, from mainland Portugal and elsewhere. This year, only 258,000 tourists have arrived so far and those from abroad must provide proof they have tested negative for the virus.

Portugal, which as a whole has reported 50,410 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,722 deaths, was initially hailed as a success story in its fight against the outbreak.

But a wave of outbreaks on the outskirts of Lisbon over the past two months forced the government to bring back some measures across affected areas. The government is expected to ease some of those measures on Wednesday.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Macfie