Swiss authorities explain which masks are most and least effective

According to Swiss health officials, not all face masks are created equal — some are more appropriate for protecting the wearer from getting contaminated with coronavirus, while others are more effective in preventing the spread of infection to others.

Swiss authorities explain which masks are most and least effective
Disposable masks are most efficient in protecting others from infection. Photo by AFP

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has published guidelines about the efficacy of various mask models currently available in Switzerland.

It also explains which types of face coverings should be avoided.

Here is an overview of FOPH’s recommendations:

Single-use disposable masks for people who are ill

If you have symptoms of Covid-19 or an acute respiratory disease in general, FOPH urges the use of masks that can be disposed of immediately after wearing.

“They should be thrown away after use, since they are certainly contaminated”, FOPH spokesperson Grégoire Gogniat told the Swiss media.

Cloth masks for general use

The Swiss COVID-19 Science Task Force has drawn up a standard which this type of textile masks must meet. 

For instance, it establishes criteria such as filtration efficiency, splash resistance and air permeability.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Where in Switzerland are masks compulsory right now?

If the mask is neither dirty nor damp after use, it should be kept in a resealable bag. However, it is important to wash it daily with a heavy-duty detergent at the temperature of least 60 degrees.

Also keep in mind that cloth masks don’t have an indefinite life span. The more often the mask is washed the more it expands, allowing droplets from outside to penetrate.

So while this type of mask can be used many times, it would have to be replaced after a while.

Filtering face piece (FFP) or FFP2/FFP3 mask – not recommended for private use

This type of mask protects the wearer from solid and liquid particles and aerosols. However, it doesn’t protect others.

In fact, as FFPs don’t filter air that is breathed out, they could actually spread the virus if worn by an infected person.

A scarf or a piece of cloth — insufficient protection

According to FOPH, “covering your face with a scarf or cloth does not protect you sufficiently from becoming infected and is of only limited use in protecting others”. 

Face shields: for your eyes only

FOPH is warning that plastic visors are not substitute as a face mask. 

“They protect the eyes from possible infection through droplets, but the possibility of infection via the nose or mouth cannot be excluded”. 

Shields should be worn only in conjunction with a mask, FOPH added. 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”