Starting at the beginning of next week, “wearing a mouth and nose protection will be mandatory in Jena’s shops, public transportation, and buildings with public access,” wrote city officals in a statement.
The measures were called for by the city’s health department, with the aim of increasing the safety of people in areas “where a minimum distance [of 1.5 metres] can not be maintained.”
The city said that there was already a basic supply of masks for nursing staff, doctors and other needed professions such as bus drivers.
It called on people to make their own masks if a professional one was not available, and said that other types of face coverings such as scarves would also be acceptable as long as they cover the nose and mouth.
On Monday, Austria also announced that shoppers in supermarkets will have to wear face masks in order to further clamp down on the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Jena has more than 110,000 residents and is the second largest city in the state of Thuringia.
As of Tuesday morning, Thuringia had 784 confirmed coronavirus cases – 119 of them in Jena – and six deaths from the virus.
Germany-wide there are 66,885 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute.
A Facebook post from the city of Jena announces the new measures.
To wear or not to wear?
Wearing a mask to protect oneself from coronavirus remains a debated subject.
There is no indication that there would be any benefit, said World Health Organization (WHO) emergency aid director Michael Ryan in Geneva on Monday. On the contrary, there are additional risks if people take off the masks incorrectly and possibly get infected in the process.
Yet following Austria's lead, Social Democrat (SPD) politician and health professor Karl Lauterbach said he was in favour of such a regulation in Germany.
“From a medical point of view, I personally consider such a provision to be very reasonable”, the University of Cologne epidemiology professor told the editorial group “RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland” on Tuesday.
“In fact, the importance of masks for containing the spread of the coronavirus was initially greatly underestimated,” said Lauterbach.
According to a survey from the group, there are currently no plans in Germany’s 16 states to enforce a similar measure.
Mouth and nose protection: (der) Mund-und-Nasen-Schutz
shop/sales outlet – (die) Verkaufsstelle
To call for something (ie. a measure or protocol) – anmahnen
Minimum distance – (der) Mindestabstand
Basic supply – (der) Grundvorrat
caregivers/nursing staff – (die) Pflegekräfte
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