German residents must now wear medical grade face masks - the decision explained

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 12:50 pm
German residents must now wear medical grade face masks - the decision explained (Photo by BARBARA GINDL/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

German residents will have to wear medical grade masks on public transport and in shops, due to tighter Covid restrictions which will be in place until at least 14 February.

While coronavirus cases and deaths are much lower in Germany than in the UK, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still pushing for further restrictions, partially over concerns about the more transmissible “British” variant of the virus.

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The German government agreed on a range of increased restrictions yesterday, which will also see most schools in the country remain closed and the military helping to administer a rapid testing programme.

While some new restrictions have been imposed, a planned nighttime curfew for the whole nation was knocked back during meetings.

What are medical grade face masks?

The German government is the first to stipulate that medical grade masks must be worn on public transport and in shops or similarly enclosed spaces.

The new rules mean that cloth masks, and certain other types of improvised face-coverings, will not be permitted in public, enclosed spaces. This is because cloth masks are less effective at preventing air particles from passing through and entering the wearer’s respiratory system than other types of face covering.

Studies have shown that the N99 and N95 medical grade masks are the most effective at filtering air particles, offering between 94 and 99 per cent protection after 20 minutes of exposure in a highly contaminated environment.

Disposable surgical masks are also an acceptable form of face covering. Though they are slightly less effective than N99 and N95 masks, they still offer significant protection, as they are made from nonwoven fabric.

A 2013 study found that disposable surgical masks are around three times more effective at blocking virus-containing aerosols than homemade face masks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) website has an extensive section looking at different types of masks, how they should be worn and which types are best suited to different individuals and situations.