Spain to mostly ditch indoor mask wearing from April 20

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People eat on a restaurant terrace, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Ronda, Spain, June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

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MADRID, April 6 (Reuters) - Spain will lift a requirement to wear face masks indoors except on public transport and in hospitals and retirement homes from April 20, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday.

Since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus drove up infections to record highs in January the caseload has receded sharply and COVID patients now account for just 3.5% of hospital occupation.

She said advisers have recommended lifting the obligation after the Easter long weekend.

Spain stopped mandatory outdoor mask use in early February but a significant number of Spaniards still choose to wear one in crowded areas. "A recommendation to wear masks responsibly will be issued when there are gatherings of people," she said.

On Tuesday, Spain's two week COVID-19 infection rate among over 60-year olds - the only age group for which the government publishes data - stood at 426 cases per 100,000 people, roughly the same as a month earlier.

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Reporting by Nathan Allen and Emma Pinedo, Editing by Inti Landauro, Kirsten Donovan

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