They have always been recommended as the most protective face mask form: FFP2 masks. In the southern German state of Bavaria they will be made compulsory as of Monday 18 January in all shops and on public transport, but they are often more costly than regular face masks. So, are they safer? Here are some questions and answers.
How effective are FFP-2 masks?
FFP2 masks, or "filtering facepiece" (also known as N95), are said to filter 97% of air particles. They offer better protection than regular mouth-nose covering, which are often worn too loosely and let in air from the sides, rather then fully through the filter only. Certain professions require FFP2 masks to be worn, for example metalworkers.
Professor Paul Wilmes from the COVID-19-Taskforce says that "it protects yourself and others. In the bus, a train or store".
Aren't they more expensive? Where can I buy them?
In Germany a FFP-2 masks costs about €2.50, but prices can be as high as €6. That is for one mask, and they should not be reused. This is a major debating point, as many politicians argue that by not offering these masks for free a state or country is effectively excluding poor citizens from public life.
Large supermarkets are beginning to offer FFP-2 masks for a cheaper price. They are also available at pharmacies.
Are the masks recommended if you've been in contact with a positive case?
Yes, says Wilmes. They are an additional barrier and filter out more particles than surgical or fabric masks. But the most important thing is that they sit well. The mask must tightly cover the mouth and nose. A man cannot have a beard while wearing the FFP2 mask, for example, and some of the masks may be too large for certain face shapes.
The point of the FFP2 mask is that all air one breathes comes in through the filter system, and not around it.
How long can the mask be worn?
A FFP-2 mask can be worn for eight hours, and must then be thrown away. If you only wear the mask for a short period of time, such as a quick hop to the supermarket, the mask can be stowed away and reused once more several days later.
Germany and Austria are offering some free masks. Could Luxembourg follow suit?
So far there has been no response to an inquiry made on Wednesday to the Ministry of Health. Currently there is no information whether Luxembourg would make FFP-2 masks mandatory.