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HEALTH

‘It will change the situation’: Vienna adapts to mandatory FFP2 masks

Austrians on Monday swapped their cloth face coverings for medical-grade FFP2 masks, now mandatory for those over 14 on public transport, shops and businesses, pharmacies as well as hospitals or medical practices.

'It will change the situation': Vienna adapts to mandatory FFP2 masks
People wearing FFP2 masks on the first day of the mandatory requirement in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

Austria is among the first European countries to make FFP2 masks mandatory.

The measure has largely been accepted without complaint, despite controversy over other measures such as the closing of schools while ski lifts remain open.

“Because of the (more contagious) variants of the coronavirus, it is necessary to protect yourself better,” said 24-year-old Vienna resident and graphic designer Hannah Zuegner.

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

“If everyone participates, I think it will change the situation, especially when the vaccines arrive,” she said.

Though often sold for more than 5 euros each just a few weeks ago, the masks, which block 94 percent of aerosols, can now be found at all grocery stores for 59 cents each.

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

Elderly residents and low-income households received packs of free FFP2 masks last week.

The measure also applies to supermarkets and to service providers such as garage owners and health professionals, while teachers, warehouse workers and people in the public service must also comply at their workplace, unless a minimum distance of two metres can be ensured.

Pregnant women and people with medical conditions that make it harder for them to breathe are exempt.

Following a second lockdown that ended in early December and allowed stores to open for Christmas shopping, daily infection rates quickly increased, leading the government to imposed a third lockdown just a few weeks later, on December 26.

EXPLAINED: Why is Austria making FFP2 masks mandatory? 

Though it was meant to be lifted on January 25, this third lockdown failed to significantly contain new infections in the nation of 8.9 million, leading to an extension until February 8 and stricter regulations, including the mandatory FFP2 masks.

Currently, around 130 new infections are registered per 100,000 residents each day — well above the maximum of 50 infections the government aims for.

Schools, museums, sports halls, cinemas and non-essential shops are currently closed and the government is urging Austrians to limit social contacts and to work from home wherever possible.

Outdoor sports, however, are permitted, and photos of crowds queueing at lifts or huddling with drinks at ice skating rinks have sparked outrage.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

Austria's capital city Vienna has begun registration appointments for those who want to get a monkeypox vaccine. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to register for the monkeypox vaccine in Vienna

As of September 9th, people can make reservations for monkeypox vaccination in Vienna, authorities announced. It is possible to register for the vaccine using the health service line by calling 1450 or via the Impfservice website.

The City of Vienna has said the pre-registration is needed because all planning will be done through a central system due to a shortage of vaccines.

“Please understand that due to the vaccine shortage, we cannot offer preventive monkeypox vaccination to everyone interested. We can use the reservation platform to quickly allocate available appointments and contact interested parties as soon as there are more vaccines”, the authorities said.

After the registration, people will be contacted to book appointments on September 14th. The first available date will be September 19th.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Who should be vaccinated against monkeypox?

Vaccination of the general population is currently not recommended.

Preventive vaccination is only offered to health care workers with a very high risk of exposure to people with monkeypox (designated monkeypox departments/outpatient clinics/offices) and persons with individual risk behaviour (persons with frequently changing sexual contacts), the City of Vienna said.

The health authorities in Vienna also have a specific information sheet in English with more information on the disease.

Monkeypox is a notifiable disease caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus and which can cause a condition similar to smallpox but rarely deadly. People with immunodeficiencies, pregnant women and children are at risk of more severe symptoms.

The virus spreads from person to person through contact with infectious skin lesions, via air droplets through speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other body fluids, and when having prolonged and close physical contact, e.g. through sexual intercourse.

READ ALSO: Austria recommends 4th Covid vaccine dose for everyone over 12

Usually, the first symptoms show up 5 to 14 days (at the latest, 21 days) after exposure. These include fever, general exhaustion, headaches, muscle and body aches, gastrointestinal problems and frequently painfully swollen lymph nodes.

“If you have symptoms and have had contact with someone with monkeypox, you must self-isolate at once and call 1450. If you have a confirmed monkeypox infection, you need to stay in self-isolation until the last crust has fallen off”, the Austrian authorities added.

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