Corona study: ffp2 mask protects better against omicron than against delta

The mask madness can already be confusing. In an interview with t-online, a pharmacist gives a practical demonstration of how to really use your masks properly – and why you can bring out your everyday mask again. (Source: t-online)

Pharmacist shows: These advantages hold the FFP2 mask, so you wear this and the OP mask correctly, put on the mouth-nose protection correctly and stow the masks best possible. (Source: t-online)

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Concern about omicrons? An FFP2 mask can protect against infection. Researchers have now found out how effective the protection is and whether it lasts even when worn repeatedly.


The time of cloth masks is long gone. Wearing a medical mask has long been mandatory when shopping, in the office or on the train. In many places, FFP2 masks are mandatory; in some regions, simple surgical masks are also accepted.

Actually, both types of masks are intended for single use, as it is also stated in the package insert. In everyday life, however, it usually looks quite different. Most people use their masks several times – after all, it’s convenient and saves costs.

FFP2 masks: These mistakes should be avoided

FFP2 masks protect better than disposable and fabric masks against the coronavirus. When buying, pay attention to the information on the packaging. For high-quality products, there is a combination of CE marking and four numbers. (Source: imago images/Laci Perenyi)

Originally, FFP2 masks were made for occupational safety and designed for an eight-hour shift. After that, they should be disposed of in household waste. However, you can use the masks longer if you reprocess them properly. (Source: imago images/Leonhard Simon)

FFP2 masks can be reused up to five times. To do this, you can clean them in the oven at 80 degrees top and bottom heat for an hour or let them dry on a hook in the room for a week. (Source: imago images/

Photo series with 6 pictures

But is this a good idea in light of the much more contagious Omikron variety? Studies by German scientists show how effectively FFP2 masks protect against omicron and how long they should be reused.

Where is mandatory to wear FFP2 masks?

Individual states have tightened their Corona measures because of the Omikron variant. German citizens are now required to wear FFP2 masks in many places – for example, in Baden-Wurttemberg for retailers, in restaurants, in museums and libraries, and on public transportation. The stricter FFP2 mask requirement also exists in Bavaria and Hesse, for example.

In Berlin, German citizens have been required to wear FFP2 masks since 15. January to wear FFP2 mask on buses and trains. Brandenburg also introduces this regulation for local public transportation (oPNV). In retail, hospitality and cultural settings, however, FFP2 masks remain merely a recommendation.

Omikron and Delta: FFP2 masks provide better protection against one variant

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Gottingen, Germany, presented evidence as early as December 2021 on how protective FFP2 masks are against corona infection. The most important factor here is the correct way of wearing the masks, according to the scientists in their study.

If an infected person and a healthy person meet in an indoor environment at short distance, the risk of infection is a good one per mille (0.1 percent) even after 20 minutes. The prerequisite is the correct fit of the FFP2 or KN95 mask. In contrast, with poorly fitting FFP2 masks, the risk of infection in the same scenario was about four percent, the team calculated.

This study has now been extended on the occasion of the rampant Omikron variant. Researchers compared protective efficacy of FFP2 masks between Omikron and Delta. The result: well-fitting FFP2 masks protect almost three times as well against omicron as against delta.

"The results of our analyses were surprising for us", Mohsen Bagheri, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS) in Gottingen, Germany, said. According to the study, they suggest that in the omicron variant of the coronavirus, most of the viral load is in the larger particles. These are very efficiently retained by the masks, Bagheri said. However, he also clarified that the risk of infection is nevertheless not zero.

The researchers based their calculation on the assumption that omicron is three times more contagious than the delta variant and occurs mainly in the upper respiratory tract. Other studies had previously suggested the latter.

FFP2 mask (symbol image): researchers have studied the maximum time a protective mask should be worn. (Source: Getty Images/fotografixx)

FFP2 mask (symbol image): Researchers have investigated the maximum length of time a protective mask should be worn. (Source: fotografixx/Getty Images)

And how long does the protective effect last?

A team of researchers from Munich University of Applied Sciences (HM) has investigated the question of whether a mask that is used several times is as effective in protecting against infection with the corona virus as the first time it is worn. For this purpose, the filter effect and breathing resistance of 15 mask models were examined before and after a 22-hour use simulation.

The result: For 8 of the 15 FFP2 masks examined, the test led to a significant decrease in filter performance. According to the researchers, however, the measured values were still within the prescribed normal range.

One mask model, on the other hand, was unable to meet the standard in terms of filter performance, either when it was new from the factory or after use simulation. "Such masks should not even be on the market", criticized the scientific project leader and professor of medical technology Christian Schwarzbauer.

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The breathing resistance of the mask models has tended to decrease with use simulation for most models, he said. "This makes the masks a little more comfortable to breathe, but otherwise it’s not a problem because the protective effect is still there.", Schwarzbauer said.

Almost all FFP2 masks offer protection even when worn repeatedly

Finally, 12 of the 15 FFP2 masks studied passed the laboratory test. "If an FFP2 mask is worn for only a few hours a day during moderate physical activity, then I do not see any problem with regard to the protective effect and breathing comfort if this mask is reused on several days", Schwarzbauer concluded. For hygienic reasons, however, the mask should not simply be put in the pocket after use, but hung up to dry.

  • Munich University of Applied Sciences: "Study on the reusability of FFP2 masks: Does the protective effect last??", 21. December 2021
  • Max Planck Society: "Masks protect so well", 2. December 2021
  • News agency dpa
  • Own research

Important Notice: The information does not in any way replace professional advice or treatment by trained and accredited physicians. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or initiate treatment.

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