Why some German students are facing a 'beard ban'
A 'ban' on full beards at a German medical university to help limit the spread of Covid has caused a stir - but it's not all it seems.
People in Germany have dealt with several strict rules aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, including having to wear face masks in public areas.
But getting rid of beards to make sure the face mask fits is one of the more obscure restrictions.
Yet many people would argue that it makes sense in the context. Medical students at the Greifswald University Medical Centre in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, northern Germany, recently received an email detailing an unusual measure.
They were sent a picture, that originally comes from the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), with a graphic that shows which beard forms are hygiene-compliant (like a moustache) - and which are not (a full beard). The email was sent out to clarify the compatibility of facial hair and FFP2 masks.
The rule has sparked an outcry among some students, and online. German daily Bild, for instance, ran a story with the tag: "New Corona rule insanity" and the headline: "Ban on full beard at German university!"
For some students, the restrictions are a step too far.
"I think it is simply disproportionate," one medical student told the regional Ostsee Zeitung.
They said medical students are already tested against Covid before every practical lesson, adding: "Moreover, most of us are already fully vaccinated or boosted."
But Professor Dr Klaus Hahnenkamp, head of the crisis management team, said it was unavoidable.
"We wear the FFP2 mask to protect ourselves. And that is only possible if it is tightly fitted to the face," Hahnenkampf told the Ostsee-Zeitung (OZ).
He said the measure had been in force among staff for some time.
"In the hospital sector, encroachments on personal rights are unavoidable when it comes to the safety of patients and medical staff," he said.
Moreover, the illustration on beards from the CDC was not made specifically for the Covid pandemic. According to the US broadcaster NBC (who fact checked the origin of the infographic when it surfaced in February 2020), it dates back to 2017.
The Local approached the University Medical Centre for a further comment.
In a statement, Dr Hahnenkamp, told The Local that in accordance with university rules, all students have been instructed to wear FFP2 masks in face-to-face courses and internships since since November.
"On 27th January 2022, a new email reminder was sent to students to ensure that they wear a tight-fitting mask during block practical training and bedside teaching.
"Students have patient contact in both the group work experience sessions and bedside teaching. Students who do not wear a tight-fitting mask are to be excluded from the lessons by the responsible course leader.
"This regulation applies to all staff in University Medicine. The international graphic is used to illustrate to beard wearers which variations allow FFP2 masks to be worn safely."