After reinstating mask mandates throughout Guatemala in early July, the government has now done a u-turn on the ruling. Masks are now optional again in Guatemala.
Less than two weeks after Guatemala reimposed mandatory masking in all public places, they’ve now walked it back. As it stands – for the moment, at least – masking is now a suggestion rather than a rule.
In early July, amid rising cases of Covid, the government decreed that mask wearing would be mandatory in all public places.
“In any alert color, the use of the mask is now mandatory in open and closed spaces,” tweeted the Ministry of Health on July 9. (Guatemala has a system of color-coding its departments and municipalities from red alert (high risk) to green alert (low risk), with orange and yellow alerts in between, depending on the amount of Covid cases in said department/municipality. They update the color codes around every two weeks.)
— Ministerio de Salud Pública (@MinSaludGuate) July 9, 2022
After that, people ignored the mandate.
Hospital numbers remained – and still remain – low in Guatemala. Mask mandates made no real sense to people over the past two weeks. Even though municipalities like the tourism hotspot of Antigua passed ordinances threatening to fine people for non-compliance, many people didn’t comply.
And then last week, President Giammattei said he wanted to lift the mandate, and make mask wearing in Guatemala a personal responsibility. Yesterday the official announcement came that mask mandates were over, except in handful of places.
MSPAS deroga el uso obligatorio de mascarillas con el acuerdo ministerial 193-2022. Únicamente será obligatoria en hospitales públicos y privados, centros de cuidado y atención de las personas de la tercera edad, centros de detención; transporte urbano y extraurbano. pic.twitter.com/m4swfoQDde
— Diario La Hora (@lahoragt) July 18, 2022
Right now, the only following places have mandatory masking in Guatemala:
- All hospitals, health centers, swab and vaccination posts, medical clinics, and laboratories
- Care and attention centers for the elderly
- Detention and arrest centers
- Public transport
Measures still in place in Guatemala include social distancing in red alert areas, with people keeping a distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other, both indoors and outdoors. This is also recommended – not mandated – in closed spaces in orange alert areas. Hand hygiene is also mandated throughout the country.
The government gave no reason for dropping the mask mandate.
We can only surmise, as stated above, it’s because no one was enforcing it anyway and Covid hospitalizations remain low. President Giammattei and his government would also rather be concentrating on other matters.
So, for now at least, if you’re traveling to Guatemala and you’re confused about masks wearing, you needn’t be. Mask wearing is optional throughout Guatemala. Unless, of course, you’re in a health facility, center for the elderly, jail, or on public transport.
Guatemala City-based Nestor Quixtan, one of this website’s contributors, has a small warning, though.
“Antigua still has a city ordinance on the books, but they weren’t really enforcing it,” he says. “I suppose folks should just be wary of it in order to avoid any unpleasantness. However, given Antigua’s current situation, I don’t think they’re going to be harassing tourists.”
Maybe keep it in your pocket, just in case.
To stay updated with the internal Covid restrictions and mandates around Central America, feel free to bookmark this page.
A guide to the Central America Covid restrictions, updated to reflect Guatemala reversing its recent mask mandate. https://t.co/lcbH7Ev7eG
— Central America Living (@VidaAmerica) July 19, 2022