Several European countries have resorted to making medical-grade face masks mandatory in the fight against the new variant of the coronavirus and the rapid rise in infections during the winters.

According to the German government, everyone must wear surgical FFP1 masks or the FFP2 filtering facepiece respirators in public places, such as public transport, workplaces, and shops. This decision was taken after the German state; Bavaria mandated a rule that grade N95 respirators must be worn on public transport and in stores. This mask protects against 95% of particles.

The French government followed in their footsteps and mandated that people can no longer wear homemade masks. They can only wear masks that abide by the specifications of Category 1, which means they protect against over 90% of particles. These include the FFP1 and FFP2 masks as well as fabric masks.

Austria will also be announcing its mask-wearing mandate in shops and on public transport later in January.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that these stringent measures are a result of the rapid spread of the new variant of the coronavirus. She added that if people do not strictly abide by these rules, ensuring the third wave does not happen will be difficult. She also talked about a video summit that will be arranged by the European Union leaders who will be spreading awareness about methods to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if countries do not take immediate action to counter the spread by enforcing social distancing, quarantine as well as contact tracing, the number of hospitalizations and deaths all across Europe could see a rapid spike. The ECDC advised that face masks should be worn both in indoor and outdoor locations when social distancing is not possible.

In the UK, even though the third wave has already begun and the death toll is increasing rapidly, medical-grade face masks have not been made mandatory. The government only requires people to wear face coverings and has included scarves and bandanas in this category as well even though they cannot protect against respiratory droplets.

According to scientists, the risk of transmission can be decreased by restricting viral aerosol exposure and this can be done by wearing medical-grade masks. The FFP masks can be even more effective as they filter the inflow as well as the outflow of air.