Coronavirus: Why are FFP2 masks now required in some outside areas in Austria?

After a change in the law, municipalities can now require people to wear FFP2 masks in public. Why?

Coronavirus: Why are FFP2 masks now required in some outside areas in Austria?
FFP2 masks are now required in some outdoor areas in Austria. Photo: David Gannon/AFP

Authorities have long been aware of the risks of transmitting coronavirus inside, however concern is growing that the virus can be transmitted outside in some situations. 

As a result, Austria has changed the law to allow for an extension of the requirement to outside areas in some instances. 

Here's what you need to know. 

What is the nature of the change? 

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. 

Check with your local municipality to see if FFP2 masks are required in certain areas. 

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. 

Infection is however far less likely outside than it is inside. 

According to the former President of the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine, Gerhard Scheuch, brief encounters outside are harmless. 

“Jogging, running, hiking, walking, I consider this to be absolutely harmless,” Scheuch told Austrian media

The real risk however is where people gather together in groups – particularly when keeping distance is difficult. 

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.


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