FFP2 mask compulsory: update in other European countries
Several of our European neighbors have put in place measures to make it compulsory to wear an FFP2 mask, which is more effective in preventing the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. What are the advantages of the FFP2 mask? What is the situation more precisely among our main European neighbors?
What are the advantages of the FFP2 mask?
For their part, FFP masks - or filter masks - are made up of several layers of fabric (generally 5, compared to 1 for a fabric mask and 2 to 3 for a surgical mask). It covers the face better and adapts more easily to individual morphology, allowing the wearer to be protected from their environment.
FFP masks are divided into several categories based on the percentage of particles they let through. FFP2 filters particles down to 0.4 microns in diameter, or 94% of particles in the air.
For example, scientists estimate that surgical masks trap around 70% of aerosols in the air, compared to 94% for FFP2 masks.
Filtration is also of a better level for FFP2 masks, which means that FFP2 masks capture particles of smaller size than fabric masks or surgical masks.
Even if they do not guarantee equal protection to 100%, which no device can provide, so that they do not exempt from respecting the rules of social distancing and hygiene, they drastically reduce the probabilities contamination.
FFP2 masks can be used several times, provided they do not wear more than 8 hours, but they must not be washed to avoid destroying their filter.
What is the cost of an FFP2 mask?
FFP2 masks are a bit more expensive; but currently you can find around 1.50 € per mask, which remains relatively affordable especially given their longer lifespan than surgical masks. Their price is generally decreasing according to the quantity purchased.
What is the situation in Austria?
From Monday, January 25, in Austria, the use of FFP2 masks will be mandatory in shops, supermarkets and public transport. The move is part of a series of stricter measures in the central European country, which provides for the extension of containment until February 17.
Austrian Chancellor Sébastian Kurz said he made the decision given the more contagious variant of the coronavirus discovered in the UK at the end of 2020 and the need to stop the increase in covid-19 cases in the country.
Austria is so far the only country that enforces the national obligation to wear an FFP2 mask - instead of surgical or cloth masks.
FFP2 masks are unanimously considered to be more effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus by doctors, as commonly used fabric masks or disposable surgical masks do not protect their wearer as effectively.
"Any mask covering the mouth and nose is useful, but the FFP2 mask has a much higher protective capacity," said the Austrian Minister of Health.
Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told a press conference on Thursday (January 21) that large quantities of FFP2 masks would be distributed free of charge to people on low incomes next week.
The makers of the FFP2 mask claim that, despite the strong demand generated by the new Austrian law, there will be no supply problems at European level, and therefore they urge consumers not to panic.
In Vienna, a group of protesters staged a symbolic protest on Wednesday against what they saw as excessive government imposition. The previous Sunday, some 10,000 people had mobilized to protest against the confinement imposed in the country.
What is the situation in Germany?
The obligation to wear the FFP2 mask is already applied locally in Germany, in the region of Bavaria, but the German government plans to extend this measure to the national level.
Although the switch to a more "effective" mask is welcome, some virologists in Germany - where the Bavarian region already enforces the compulsory use of FFP2 and where the government plans to make this measure effective nationwide - warn the risk of a shortage in the medium term of this protective equipment, prompting the government to stock up.
What is the situation in Switzerland?
FFP2 masks are compulsory in hospitals in Switzerland. Apart from the canton of Aargau, which has banned fabric masks, surgical and fabric masks, including homemade ones, are allowed throughout the Swiss country.
At the federal level, cloth masks remain authorized at the national level in all places requiring the wearing of the mask (i.e. almost the entire country), but the cantons are free to put in place stricter rules at the local level.
However, recently the federal government "advised against" homemade and uncertified masks, but did not issue a ban.
What is the situation in France?
In France, officially this measure has not yet been considered.
However, according to several sources close to the government, the authorities are actively discussing the advisability of imposing the compulsory use of the FFP2 mask, in order to avoid a new containment or later, when the time comes for the third reconfinement (if a third confinement was actually decided).
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