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In a normal year, hundreds of thousands of UK travellers jet off to Spain to see the sights and enjoy the sun.

Flights from Heathrow Airport and others across the country fly passengers to Madrid, Barcelona, Pamplona and other cities and destinations around the Iberian nation.

The country is changing its rules around facemasks after almost 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded on Tuesday – higher than a surge in January that put Spain’s national health system under severe strain.

Read More: The latest travel rules for India as UK Omicron cases surge

The Spanish Prime Minister is convening a special Cabinet meeting to pass a law by decree that makes it mandatory to wear masks outdoors, amid a record surge in coronavirus cases.

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Pedro Sanchez announced at a meeting with the leaders of regional governments on Wednesday that he was consenting to their appeals to extend mask-wearing rules, his office said.

A decree-law does not require a debate and vote in parliament before taking effect.

The current UK Foreign Office guidance for Spain states: “Before travel to Spain, everyone (including children under 12 years old) and young people travelling by air or sea must fill in and sign an online Health Control Form. If you do not complete this form electronically, you may submit it in paper format before boarding.

“On arrival into Spanish ports and airports you must show the QR code (hardcopy or digital) issued when you completed the online Health Control Form before travel.”

Tourists must show proof of being fully vaccinated (with both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine) at least 14 days prior to arrival in Spain (date(s) of vaccination must be specified), according to the UK Foreign Office.

Mr Sanchez also announced a raft of other measures, including an offer to deploy the armed forces to help the regions step up their vaccination rollout and put military hospital beds at their disposal if they are needed.

He added he is targeting 80% of the 60-69 age group to have received booster shots by the end of next week, among other goals.

Also, Covid-19 tests for professional use will temporarily be placed on sale at pharmacies, amid a reported shortage of tests, and medical teams will be reinforced with retired staff and specialists who earned their qualifications outside the European Union.

Furthermore, fully vaccinated people will not need to quarantine if they have been in contact with an infected person – a measure that seemed to be aimed at avoiding the shortages of essential personnel.

Spain is reporting almost 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, more than double the accumulated cases before last year’s Christmas holidays. The Omicron strain has soared from 5% of new cases in Spain to 47% within one week.

Still, vaccinations are credited with sparing many people from the virus’s worst effects. While last January some 30,000 Covid-19 patients were in the hospital in Spain, now it is fewer than 8,000.

Mr Sanchez told the Spanish parliament that 90% of the target population aged 12 and over is fully vaccinated.

He told lawmakers: “Don’t worry, families will be able to celebrate Christmas. Spain has prevailed.”

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