Since January 25th, FFP2 masks have been required in all retail shops and supermarkets, along with public transport throughout Austria.
While FFP2 masks have been required in some outdoor areas already – including outdoor markets, ski lifts and train station platforms – Austrian authorities have indicated that FFP2 masks will be required in some further outdoor parts of Austria.
Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said on Thursday that the measure would be up to state and municipal authorities, but that it was necessary as the country was entering a “risk phase all the way until Easter”.
Anschober said the public should not be concerned by the new measure, as masks have already been required in some outdoor areas.
The Health Minister said he expected the measure to be put in place in built up areas outside, such as queues outside shopping centres and other heavily frequented places.
Media speculation proves true
The news of the measure first emerged in the media on February 18th as a letter from the Austrian government to state and municipal authorities was leaked.
The letter from Austria’s Ministry of Health called for the implementation of an FFP2 mask requirement in outdoor areas.
The requirement would apply in “highly frequented public places outdoors”.
In the letter, the government writes of the “changed legal situation” referring to the relaxation of the lockdown put in place from February 8th.
The government has called upon state officials to require masks in areas where a two-metre distance “cannot generally and continuously be maintained”.
“In particular, highly frequented shopping streets and corresponding areas in city centres” should have mask requirements.
While Austria’s mask rules only require an FFP2 mask in indoor areas and in public transit, neighbours such as Germany, Italy and Switzerland all have some form of mask requirement in outdoor areas.
The letter, which was obtained by Austria’s Kurier newspaper, reads as follows:
“Against the background of the ongoing pandemic and the changed legal situation, the federal states are requested again to immediately create regulations at state or district level, according to which when entering highly frequented public places outdoors, one respirator of protection class FFP2 (FFP2 mask) without an exhalation valve or a mask of at least equivalent or a higher standard must be worn.”
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.
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.