Citing fears about the spread of new strains of COVID-19, the state of Bavaria will tighten mask restrictions from next week onwards.
As of Monday, it will be mandatory to wear FFP2 masks on all forms of public transport and in shops and supermarkets across the southern state. The change was announced by state premier Markus Söder on Tuesday afternoon in Munich, following a cabinet meeting.
Söder said that the “normal community masks” helped to protect others, but that FFP2 masks - which are readily available in pharmacies - also helped to protect the wearer. He said the aim was to improve safety on public transport and in retail. “The availability [of the masks] in trade is sufficiently guaranteed, so there is no shortage of FFP2,” Söder emphasised.
“Cautiously positive trend” in infection numbers
Söder also had some positive news, announcing that lockdown measures are slowly beginning to work. In terms of the number of new infections, he spoke of a “cautiously positive trend.” Within the past 24 hours, there were 1.740 new infections in Bavaria, almost 500 fewer than a week ago.
However, the death rate is still high, and it is not yet fully clear what effect the holidays have had on infection numbers. Söder also said he was “very worried” about the virus mutation from the UK, which has now also been detected in Germany. He stressed that consistency and patience were still needed in the fight against the virus.
FFP2 masks now compulsory on public
The leader of the Bavarian Green Party, Katharina Schulze, tweeted that FFP2 masks are very useful for fighting infections. But if the government mandates FFP2 masks, she said, it is their responsibility to "make sure there are enough and that they are given free of charge to people who can't afford them." Dieter Janecek, a member of the Green Party in the Bundestag, expressed similar views. He said it was a good approach to make FFP2 masks mandatory.
The SPD health expert in the state parliament, Ruth Waldmann, called on the state government to provide FFP2 masks for the entire population. FFP2 masks make absolute sense, she said.
According to FDP health expert Dominik Spitzer, the FFP2 mask requirement for buses and trains should have come much earlier. "It has been known for months that FFP2 masks protect much better against infection than conventional mouth-nose protection or everyday masks," he said.
His parliamentary group had already demanded a corresponding order for public transport in October via an urgent motion. "With the addition: the masks should be free. We are still demanding that." Low-income earners who have to go to work by bus and train should not suffer any disadvantage. Wearing such a mask is expensive. "And with the new regulation, the prices for FFP2 masks will certainly rise."
AFD health expert Andreas Winhart said that the new measure was "only easy to implement in Söder's world of thought". The fact that hundreds of thousands of citizens now have to dig deep into their pockets every day to comply with this regulation does not seem to interest the state government. "This will be a financial burden especially for students and working people, not to speak of Harz IV recipients who will now have to put on an expensive mask for every visit to the supermarket."
SPD=Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
FDP=Freie Demokratische Partei/ Free Democratic Party
AFD=Alternative for Germany