'They could reduce the risk': Germany's public health institute updates stance on face masks

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'They could reduce the risk': Germany's public health institute updates stance on face masks
People in a Bavarian supermarket wearing face masks. Photo: DPA

The Robert Koch Institute has updated its position regarding people wearing protective face masks in public places, saying more widespread use could help slow the coronavirus spread.


Experts from the public health organisation now say that as a precautionary measure to help prevent the risk of transmission, people without coronavirus symptoms should consider wearing a protective face mask.

Previously, they had recommended that only people with acute respiratory infections should wear the mask, which covers the wearer's nose and mouth.

In an updated entry dated April 1st, the RKI website states: "Some infected people do not become ill at all (asymptomatic infection), but could still pass it on to others.

"In these cases, the precautionary wearing of masks could help to reduce the risk of transmission.


"Therefore, the wearing of temporary masks by people entering public places where the safety distance cannot be maintained, e.g. public transport, grocery stores or even at the workplace, could help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2."

The RKI added that masks "could support the awareness of physical distancing and health-conscious behaviour".

They said that for optimal effectiveness, the protective face mask, which could also take the form of a textile barrier if there's a shortage, should be correctly fitted (i.e. worn tightly), changed when wet, and not touched while being worn.

Graph translated for The Local by Statista.

As The Local reported, the eastern German city of Jena became the first city in Germany to introduce compulsory face masks for shopping, public transportation and public buildings.

The order, which kicks in next week, was 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.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How to do social distancing in Germany



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.

Other towns and districts in Germany are also introducing these measures, although there's been no sign of a nationwide order yet.

Wearing a mask to protect yourself and others 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.

Yet others believe they are helpful.


Easter holiday trips banned

It came as Easter holidays to the islands and vacation spots in the northern German state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were banned.

The state government said no trips could be taken over the Easter holidays to popular holiday destinations, such as the islands of Rügen, Usedom and Hiddensee, to the Baltic Sea coast, and to the Mecklenburg Lake District.



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