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Spain to scrap mandatory outdoor masks from June 26

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Spanish tourists remove their protective masks after taking a photo with a statue of a bullfighter outside a bullring, after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Friday, the lifting of the blanket obligation to wear masks outdoors from June 26, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Ronda, Spain, June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
Spanish tourists remove their protective masks to take a photo with a statue of a bullfighter outside a bullring, after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Friday, the lifting of the blanket obligation to wear masks outdoors from June 26, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Ronda, Spain, June 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Spain will lift a blanket obligation to wear masks outdoors from June 26, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday (18 June), write Inti Landauro, Joan Faus and Emma Pinedo, Reuters.

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Spain's announcement follows a decision in neighbouring France to end the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors as infection rates fall, although concerns remain over the spread of the Delta variant. Read more.

"This weekend will be the last one with masks in outdoor spaces because the next weekend we will no longer wear them," Sanchez told an event in Barcelona.

He said the cabinet will meet on June 24 to approve the lifting of the mask-wearing rule from June 26.

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Barring a few exceptions such as for exercising, mask wearing has been a legal requirement indoors and out across most of Spain, regardless of social-distancing, since last summer, for everybody older than six.

However, with infections dwindling and nearly half the population having received at one vaccine dose - including more than 90% of people over 50 - some regional authorities have been clamouring to ease the rule.

The nationwide infection rate as measured over the preceding 14 days fell to 96.6 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, down from over 150 cases a month ago, while pressure on the health system has eased significantly since the beginning of the year.

Spain's 17 regions are largely responsible for managing healthcare, but major policy shifts must be proposed by the central government, in a system that frequently generates tension between administrations.

Last week the government was forced to backtrack on a plan to gradually reopen nightclubs after widespread complaints from regional authorities who dismissed it as either too strict or too loose. Read more.

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Commission approves €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support cattle farmers affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €1.8 million Latvian scheme to support farmers active in the cattle-breeding sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure aims at mitigating the liquidity shortages that the beneficiaries are facing and at addressing part of the losses they incurred due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Latvian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework.

In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per beneficiary; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64541 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €500,000 Portuguese scheme to further support the passenger transport sector in the Region of the Azores in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. It follows another Portuguese scheme to support the passenger transport sector in Azores that the Commission approved on 4 June 2021 (SA.63010). Under the new scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to collective passenger transport companies of all sizes active in the Azores. The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing and to address losses incurred over 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

The Commission found that the Portuguese scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.64599 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission authorizes French aid scheme of €3 billion to support, through loans and equity investments, companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic

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The European Commission has cleared, under EU state aid rules, France's plans to set up a € 3 billion fund that will invest through debt instruments and equity and hybrid instruments in companies affected by the pandemic. The measure was authorized under the Temporary State Aid Framework. The scheme will be implemented through a fund, titled 'Transition Fund for Businesses Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic', with a budget of € 3bn.

Under this scheme, support will take the form of (i) subordinated or participating loans; and (ii) recapitalization measures, in particular hybrid capital instruments and non-voting preferred shares. The measure is open to companies established in France and present in all sectors (except the financial sector), which were viable before the coronavirus pandemic and which have demonstrated the long-term viability of their economic model. Between 50 and 100 companies are expected to benefit from this scheme. The Commission considered that the measures complied with the conditions set out in the temporary framework.

The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of France, in accordance with Article 107 (3) (b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the temporary supervision. On this basis, the Commission authorized these schemes under EU state aid rules.

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Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager (pictured), competition policy, said: “This €3bn recapitalization scheme will allow France to support companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic by facilitating their access funding in these difficult times. We continue to work closely with member states to find practical solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic while respecting EU regulations.”

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