EXPLAINED: Why is Austria making FFP2 masks mandatory?

EXPLAINED: Why is Austria making FFP2 masks mandatory?
FFP2 masks at a factory in Germany. Photo: THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP
From Monday, January 25th, FFP2 masks will be mandatory in Austria. But why the change?

From January 25th, FFP2 masks will be required in all retail shops and supermarkets, along with public transport throughout Austria. 

Long-distance trains will also require FFP2 masks, as will doctors surgeries, airports and aeroplanes.  

Anyone who fails to wear a mask in a long-distance train in Austria will risk a fine of 40 euros. 

READ MORE: How much is the fine for not wearing a mask in Austria?

Previously, cotton masks or scarves were sufficient to satisfy the regulation. 

Austria put in place a range of stricter rules after a meeting on January 17th, including extending the lockdown until February 7th. 

READ MORE: Austria extends lockdown until February 7th

What are FFP2 masks? 

Otherwise known as FFP2/FFP3, N95 masks or ‘respirators’, FFP2 masks protect wearers from breathing in hazardous contaminants in the air. 

They protect against particles in the air, possibly also against aerosols. They are made of several layers of fabric and paper and have built-in filters.

These masks are said to be more protective than fabric masks or surgical masks.

READ MORE: FFP2 masks to be mandatory in public transport and shops

They protect the wearer – but not 100 percent, so the wearers must also continue to observe distance and hygiene rules.

The masks filter 94 percent of airborne particles.

The masks do not have to and should not be changed daily, but can be used several times. They must not be washed so as not to destroy the filter function.

These belong to the product category “personal protective equipment” (PPE).

How much will they cost? 

While FFP2 masks are more expensive than standard medical masks, the government has promised that they will be available to Austrians at cost price. 

Supermarkets Lidl, Spar and Rewe told APA on Sunday that they would be selling the masks at cost price – although they were unable to confirm the exact costs of the masks on Sunday. 

A spokesperson from Rewe told Der Standard that the masks would be offered “as cheaply as possible”. 

READ MORE: How much will mandatory FFP2 masks cost in Austria? 

Does anyone get FFP2 masks for free? 

Yes. The Austrian government promised that people on low incomes would be entitled to the masks for free. 

Also, people over the age of 65 will receive a package of free masks from the Austrian government via the post. 

More information is available at the following link. 

Will there be enough? 

The retailers also indicated that there would be no issues with supply, even as demand is set to spike as a result of the new law. 

Austrian media reports that supermarkets and pharmacies have ‘millions’ on hand, assuring people that panic buying wasn’t necessary. 

Since 2020, Austria has rapidly expanded its domestic production of medical equipment. Austria’s Kurier newspaper reports that as at January 2021, producer Hygiene Austria can make up to ten million FFP2 masks a month. 

But why are FFP2 masks now required? 

Put simply, FFP2 masks are more effective at reducing the spread of the virus than cotton masks or even the common disposable medical masks that are often used. 

“Any mouth and nose protection is good, but the FFP2 mask is massively better,” said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober (Greens) on Sunday, January 17th. 

FFP2 masks offer better protection against the coronavirus and other pathogens, with up to 94 percent of aerosols filtered out. 

 


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