Berlin (dpa) – Several German experts consider the Bavarian obligation to wear FFP2 masks fundamentally sensible. However, a specialist is also skeptical about whether the new rule will make a difference in the fight against Corona.
It is emphasized that the availability of the masks and correct handling are essential. The cabinet in Bavaria decided on Tuesday that people in local public transport and in the retail trade must wear so-called FFP2 masks from next Monday. Ordinary mouth and nose protection – often self-sewn – can protect other people, experts say FFP2 masks also protect the wearer themselves.
“Basically I think the idea is good,” said virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the German news agency. However, it should be linked to offers: on the one hand free access to such medical masks, and on the other hand instructions for correct use. “Without such offers, I see it critically.”
Even an FFP2 mask only protects if it is applied and used correctly, emphasizes Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine in Hamburg. It should seal tightly, the outer surface should not be touched when put down. When used correctly, such a mask offers a lot of self-protection, in contrast to the simple disposable and cotton masks. “I can protect myself and am less dependent on the people around me who behave correctly.”
However, it is hardly possible to judge how much less infections there would be in a bus, for example if the people in it were all wearing correctly applied FFP2 masks rather than properly applied simple disposable masks, Schmidt-Chanasit said. “That is speculative, there is no data on that.”
Virologist Alexander Kekulé also thinks the obligation to wear FFP2 masks in public transport and the retail trade makes sense in principle. “An FFP2 mask is of course much safer than mouth and nose protection, which is often worn very loosely.”
FFP2 masks have arguably better self-protection than simple surgical mouth and nose coverings, explains Gérard Krause of the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig. In addition, the quality of simple mouth and nose guards on offer seems to be very variable – and the way they are worn is often insufficient. “With FFP2 masks, these two difficulties do not appear to be as pronounced, so better efficacy can be expected for this reason too.”
But there are also more skeptical voices about the FFP2 commitment. “I don’t think that makes a big difference,” says Johannes Knobloch, head of hospital hygiene at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, the German news agency. “In the worst case, the situation can even worsen because people feel more protected and are less careful.”
An FFP2 mask requires a great deal of professional knowledge, it stems from occupational safety and is not intended for laymen. “If it’s not put on all the way tight, it doesn’t work any better than a simple disposable mask,” says Knobloch. The breathing resistance is greater with the denser FFP2 masks than with the simple plastic or self-sewn fabric masks. “I always breathe at least partially through a cloth mask, but if there’s a small opening somewhere in the face with an FFP2 mask, almost all the air goes through that – and with it the virus.”
Also, it is unclear to many people that beards cannot wear an FFP2 mask tightly, Knobloch explains. “Men can only wear it with a clean shaven skin.”
The president of the Society for Aerosol Research, Christof Asbach, warns against misconceptions about the safety of FFP2 masks. These wouldn’t provide 100% protection, even if worn perfectly, Asbach told the German news agency. According to the requirements, the masks should filter 94 percent of the particles – 6 percent still. “In general, you also have to free yourself from the idea that there is one single measure that will reduce the risk of infection to zero.” A mix is important.
According to Asbach, it makes little difference whether the masks come from the class FFP2, N95 or KN95.