Woman with FFP2 mask (in Freiburg): The masks are made to protect those who wear them from pollutants in the ambient air
Photo: Winfried Rothermel / imago images
Anyone who wants to use public transport in Germany or go shopping in shops will in future have to wear a medical protective mask: i.e. an FFP2 mask, a mask based on the Chinese KN95 standard or a surgical mask.
This is what the federal and state governments decided on Tuesday.
The widespread everyday masks, made of fabric for example, often do not adequately protect those who wear them from the virus when they breathe in.
FFP2 masks (FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece) are made to protect those who wear them from pollutants in the ambient air.
Among other things, they keep out aerosols, as well as dust and smoke.
There are three FFP classes.
The higher the value, the more particles the masks must be able to filter out of the air.
Surgical masks have been used by doctors and nurses for decades.
They protect people in the immediate vicinity of the mask wearer from liquid particles that they give off when they speak or cough.
These masks often consist of several layers of fabric or cotton, the outermost layer repels liquids, and some have a filter effect.
They probably do not protect the wearer from harmful substances as well as properly put on FFP2 masks when inhaling, but better than a simple piece of cloth in front of the mouth and nose.
When the first mask requirements were introduced in the spring of the first Corona wave, FFP2 and FFP3 masks were in short supply in Germany.
The few copies that were there should be reserved for medical staff if possible.
Surgical masks were already more available back then and therefore much more widespread among the population.
Since the summer there has been no nationwide acute FFP2 or FFP3 mask shortage in Germany.
Many factories in the Far East have massively expanded their production and shipped a lot of goods to Europe.
In the meantime, FFP2 masks are also being produced in this country.
Are new bottlenecks looming now?
Until the introduction of the FFP-2 mask requirement in Bavaria, which has been in force since Monday, there were no bottlenecks.
You could easily buy FFP2 masks from various providers in pharmacies or on the Internet;
the delivery times were usually only a few days.
Due to the new regulations in Bavaria, there was at times a rush for these protective masks.
In pharmacies in particular, masks were at times scarce.
In addition, some providers increased their prices, but by no means all.
The price range is strikingly high.
In stationary retail or pharmacies, five to seven euros per item are required;
In online retail there are offers for end consumers for 1.50 euros or less.
According to logistics experts, billions of masks are in stock in Europe.
It is difficult to say whether and how quickly supplies would come from the Far East in the event of a renewed shortage.
Because container ships from Asia to Europe are currently often fully booked: not so much with masks, but with all kinds of products.
Concerns about bottlenecks and the comparatively high prices of FFP2 masks were probably one of the main reasons for the decision by the federal and state governments to allow surgical masks as an alternative.
As a rule, they are more affordable and more widely available - for example in some supermarkets or drug stores.
more on the subject
New Corona resolutions: Federal and state governments agree on stricter mask requirements
German Corona "strategy": the worst, worst, longest mistakeA column by Christian Stöcker
Fight against the corona virus: Germany needs the FFP2 mask requirement A comment by Claus Hecking
Coronavirus: What FFP2 masks do - and what they don't
Anyone who buys FFP2 masks should first ensure that the product offered has a CE mark.
In order for a mask to carry the »CE« and the FFP2 mark, it must meet various test specifications of an EU standard.
Among other things, it is checked how tight the mask is and how good the filter performance is.
FFP2 masks must therefore capture at least 94 percent of the particles in the ambient air.
For FFP3 masks, the default is even 99%.
Apparently there are also masks with falsified CE marks on the market that do not meet the FFP2 standards.
To uncover these, it can help to take a closer look.
There should be a four-digit number next to the "CE".
This code shows the test center that checked the mask.
For example, 0158 stands for Dekra.
By doing an Internet search, you can usually find out quickly who checked this particular FFP2 mask.
Sometimes sales platforms also provide the test certificate.
If you still have doubts about the FFP2 that is on sale, you can contact the specified testing organization directly.
CE marking and verification code on an FFP2 mask
Photo: Sven Hoppe / dpa
It is also important to put the mask on correctly.
FFP2 masks often have a nosepiece.
It should be readjusted to the nose before each use, and the mask should sit close to the face - so that no air can flow in at the side edges and, if possible, all of the air inhaled is cleaned by the filter.
This is a problem for beards.
You have to decide how important it is to protect your health with a close fitting mask.
Hair grows back.
Icon: The mirror