By Lexie Kauffman ‘22
As Covid-19 cases spike and a newer, more transmissible, strain grows, European countries have begun to mandate medical-grade masks. In layman’s terms, homemade masks will no longer be sufficient.
The switch to medical masks began in France once the government announced that all citizens must wear a single-use surgical FFP1 mask, FFP2 filtering respirator, or fabric masks that block more than 90% of particles. France’s decision was then followed by the German government that released a statement requiring all peers to wear FFP1 or FFP2 masks while on public transport or in workplaces and shops. German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited the new coronavirus strains in other European countries as the grounds for more restrictions.
“I urge people to take this seriously. Otherwise it is difficult to prevent a third wave,” Merkel told journalists in Berlin.
Merkel also mentioned a future meeting between European Union leaders that will focus on stopping the spread across the continent.
That future meeting occurred on Thursday January 21, 2021. At the summit, leaders discussed many future options to combat the new mutated virus, including border restrictions, rapid testing, and more measures like enforced social distancing and contact tracing. Masks were not specifically addressed, but many countries began to follow France and Germany in their regulations.
When the pandemic first hit, citizens were asked to only wear cloth masks in order to preserve the supply of medical masks for healthcare workers. However, as the supply of medical masks increases, Europe feels confident that citizens will also be able to wear safer masks. Daniel Camus, a member of the council, released a statement to France’s public broadcaster.
“We are not questioning the masks used up to now … but as we don’t have any new weapons against the new strains, the only thing we can do is to improve the weapons we already have.”
Europe, along with the rest of the world, is scrambling to suppress the pandemic. For now, citizens can do their part by wearing a mask, social distancing, and quarantining when necessary.