Local authorities in Spain have started banning smoking in public places in light of evidence that increases the risk of coronavirus transmission.

As of Thursday the region of Galicia outlawed smoking in the street and public venues such as restaurants and bars wherever social distancing is impossible.

The Canary Islands will follow suit on Friday and at least eight other regions are looking at doing the same, including Madrid and Andalusia.

Spain now has the worst infection rate in western Europe, with daily cases rising from under 150 in June to more than 1,500 so far this month.

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The study suggested smokers emit more respiratory droplets – the virus’ key mode of transport – than non-smokers because they have to blow out smoke.

The virus may also be more likely to be passed between the hands and the face via the cigarette and repeated removal of face masks for smoking.

Galicia’s regional leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo warned anyone caught flouting the ban, which also covers vaping, will face a €100 (£90) fine.

Speaking at a press conference he said: ‘Several members of our clinical committee agreed that smoking without any restrictions without observing a safety distance, be it at an outdoor bar with people close by or in other crowded areas, constitutes a high risk of infection.’

Alberto Fernández Villar, a doctor sitting on Mr Feijóo’s clinical committee, told El País: ‘We know that this is an unpopular measure for smokers.

‘They will have to move several metres to separate themselves from their companions. And in the world of hostelry it may not be viewed well, because there might be people who will not go to a sidewalk café if they can’t smoke comfortably. 

‘But I believe that we are in an exceptional context, with a disease which we don’t know how it will behave in the fall and winter, and any reasonable measure, which has been argued and that protects public health should be applauded.’

Healthcare policy in Spain is mostly decided by each region, leading to a mish-mash of different measures against the virus around the country.

Other areas are likely to go ahead with smoking bans as the measure is now being recommended by independent bodies such as the Spanish Society for Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery.

The Canary Islands also brought in requirements to wear face masks in all public spaces for the first time on Thursday, having been the only Spanish region not to make them mandatory. 

Regional leader Angel Victor Torres said the government had to act ‘forcefully’ in response to rising case numbers.

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