From January 25th FFP2 masks will be required in Austria’s shops, supermarkets and public transport. In Germany, FFP2 or medical masks are also set to be required in supermarkets and public transport.
One of the major reasons for the new mask rules in Switzerland’s German-speaking neighbours has been the spread of the new virus variant, which is believed to be around 40 to 60 percent more infectious than known variants.
Does Switzerland require FFP2 masks?
Despite Germany and Austria's decision, Switzerland has not followed suit.
While FFP2 masks are required in hospitals in Switzerland – and the canton of Aargau has banned fabric masks – cotton and fabric masks, including home-made ones, are fine throughout the country.
At the federal level, cotton masks still satisfy the mask requirement – although individual cantons are free to put in place stricter rules.
The federal government ‘recommends against’ self-made and uncertified masks, but has issued no ban.
Chief cantonal doctor Rudolf Hauri said FFP2 masks could be made compulsory in some circumstances, for instance in offices.
“These are particularly circumstances with greater importance for aerosol formation, for example in narrow spaces with little ventilation” Hauri said.
Hauri said the need for FFP2 masks was not as great in public transport, given that there is a higher degree of air circulation than in enclosed spaces like offices.
Fabric masks are believed to hold back around 70 percent of aerosols, compared with 94 percent for FFP2 masks.
The filtration is also of a higher level, meaning that FFP2 masks catch smaller particles than cotton or medical masks.
Will Switzerland introduce FFP2 masks?
Michael Riediker, an expert from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, told Swiss media that Switzerland should phase out cotton and fabric masks immediately.
“Get rid of the self-sewn masks” Riediker said.
“Even with four layers of the thick pattern fabric, if I test it, a nice jet of fog (aerosols) comes out on the other side.”
If everyone wears medical masks or FFP2, the virus load from aerosols is reduced by a factor of 10, according to a study published in the Aerosol and Air Quality Research journal in 2021.
Riediker also said that eating and drinking should be banned on public transport to ensure aerosols don’t escape.
FFP2 masks have been shown to be more effective against the virus.
The entire staff of the retirement home chain Tertianum have been wearing FFP2 since November.
CEO Luca Stäger told Bluewin that coronavirus infections have halved in the homes since then, saying it is a sign of their effectiveness.
Health economist Willy Oggier has called upon the government to tighten the rules so that FFP2 masks are required.
Oggier said it was becoming clear that FFP2 masks are more effective against the virus – and the laws should be changed accordingly.
“Basically, in a pandemic you only know in retrospect what works and what doesn’t” he said.
Masks need to be worn correctly
Hugo Sax, an infectiologist at the University Hospital Zurich disagrees however.
He says that the current masks are sufficient – they are just not being worn right or enough.
“From what I see on public transport, it is the case that around 80 percent do not wear the masks correctly,” he explains.
“Wearing a mask correctly is the order of the day, regardless of the mask type,” Oggier told SRF.