Corona: what protection is there for the mouth and nose?

During the corona pandemic, states made it mandatory to wear mouth-to-nose protection in parts of public spaces. As an important part of the so-called AHA rules, it aims to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In case of violations threatens a Fine of at least 50 euros. In some states also higher amounts are due.

A duty to wear medical masks applies, among other things, to

  • the public transport
  • the Retail
  • Services
  • Jobs, where minimum distances cannot be maintained and certain other protective measures cannot be taken (the employer is supposed to provide them here)

Wearing masks marked FFP2, KN95 / N95 or surgical masks is mandatory in these locations.

People who cannot wear mouth and nose coverings due to a health impairment or disability are exempt from the requirement. The fact that no mouth and nose covering can be worn must be made credible in a suitable manner – for example, by means of an appropriate, meaningful medical certificate.

Where must mouth-to-nose coverings be worn?

This varies from state to state. In most states, masks are mandatory in the public transport, at Retail and in other publicly accessible indoor spaces. In most German states, masks are compulsory for children from the time they start school.

It is best to check the website of your state or municipality to find out what the regulations are for wearing an oral-nasal covering.

In addition to the mask requirement, the basic rules still apply: At least 1.5 meters distance to other people, thoroughly clean the Washing hands (after each contact with surfaces and objects outside the own four walls) and in a disposable handkerchief or the crook of the arm to sneeze. You can read more detailed recommendations in this article.

All consumer information on Corona can be found on this overview page on the topic.

What are FFP2 masks?

FFP2 masks are particle-filtering half masks and were originally designed as dust protection masks. The abbreviation stands for "filtering face piece". Filtering masks are divided into three classes according to their permeability to small particles such as dust or viruses, based on their filtering performance: There are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks:

  • FFP1 masks filter 80 percent of the particles in the air we breathe. Dust or smoke are examples of particles.
  • FFP2 masks filter 95 percent of particles and aerosols.
  • FFP3 masks filter up to 99 percent of particles and aerosols.

The Robert Koch Institute and the Working Committee on Biological Agents recommend that FFP2 masks or respiratory protection exceeding FFP2 should preferably be worn when working with SARS-CoV-2.

their protective function is standardized throughout Europe by the DIN EN 149:2009-08 standard. According to this standard, the FFP2 masks must filter at least 94 percent of the particles. For FFP3 masks, the standard is to filter at least 99 percent of the test aerosols. Inside the mask is a special filter layer, which is electrostatically charged. The significantly smaller but dangerous aerosol droplets are also removed from the inhaled and exhaled air.

How to recognize a FFP2 mask?

If you purchase FFP2 masks, look for the following labels:

  • FFP2 masks must have a CE-mark have.
  • They must have a 4-digit number which gives an indication of the approved test center. The specified test numbers can be checked in the so-called NANDO database on the website of the EU Commission. In Germany there are currently the following approved testing laboratories: 0044 (TuV North), 0121 and 0418 (DGUV), 0158 (DEKRA) and 0757 (ift Rosenheim).
  • In addition to the class (z.B. FFP2) is followed by a blank space and either the NR" suffix for non reusable, d.h. not reusable (according to occupational health and safety only permitted for use in one work shift), the suffix "R" for reusable, i.e. reusable or the suffix "D, which stands for dolomite dust test passed.
  • The Number and the year of publication of the European standard must be indicated on the mask.
  • On the mask should be a Manufacturer name or a brand be printed.
  • On the packaging of compliant masks, the indications and the Address of the manufacturer or of the company placing the mask on the market.

In addition, when you buy the mask, you should get a Operating or use instructions be given away. The absence of these markings may indicate that the mask does not comply with the safety requirements in force.

Tested and recalled masks

February 2021 Stiftung Warentest published a test result for ten FFP2 masks. Filtering efficiency was high for all masks, but three masks had comparatively poor airflow and some masks did not fit tightly for all subjects.

There are numerous masks that are considered "dangerous products" apply and are recalled. This can z.B. may be the case if they do not provide sufficient protection or contain substances that are hazardous to health. The list of affected masks is available from the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in the product category "Protective equipment".

Who do I contact with complaints about incorrect labeling??

If you purchase FFP2 masks that do not meet the above requirements, or if you suspect for any other reason that the masks do not meet the applicable safety requirements, you can contact the district government of your place of residence or the competent authority in your state.

Example of a correctly marked FFP2 mask:

Manufacturer’s information
Type/Model number
EN 149:2001+A1:2009
FFP2 NO – CE 0000

Invalid CE markings
For example, the following institutes are not approved certification bodies for respirators:

  • CE 1282 – ECM (Ente Certificazione Macchine)
  • CE 2703 – ICR Polska
  • CE 2037 – CELAB
  • CE 0865 – ISET Srl Unipersonale
  • CE 1299 – TSU Slovakia (Technicky skusobny ustav Piestany)
  • CE 2468 – Zavod za ispitivanje kvalitete d.o.o.
  • CE 2466 – Zavod za ispitivanje kvalitete robe d.o.o.

Various strong filtering masks

In addition to the FFP2 masks, there are other strongly filtering masks that have a different designation: KN95 and N95 masks.

The KN95 masks originate from China, N95 masks are approved in the USA. Certification or approval requirements for respirators may have slight differences in different countries. Due to similar requirements, the protection classes for respirators with the designation KN95 and N95 have a similar filtering effect and thus offer comparable protection.

Since the 1. From October 2020, KN95 masks without EU certification may no longer be placed on the market. Only those who have obtained a special permit from the competent market surveillance authority from before 1. If a company can show that it has a product on the market by October, it may still sell its stock that is already in the EU. Also, no CE markings may be affixed to the KN95 masks to prevent confusion with the genuine FFP2 masks.

A copy of this confirmation or. a certificate is to be enclosed to all purchasers of the masks.

Pharmacies are also allowed to sell masks with the KN95 identification from China can be dispensed with if they have the required certificate and are therefore marketable in Germany. KN95 masks without a corresponding confirmation may not be supplied as personal protective equipment. It is not possible to tell from the outside whether a KN95 mask is of the same quality as an FFP2 mask or not. This can only be taken from the written confirmation of the supervisory authority, which is available to the dispensing pharmacy.

What to consider when wearing FFP2 masks?

Even FFP2 masks do not provide 100% protection. It is therefore important, even if you wear an FFP2 mask, to keep the Distance, hygiene and ventilation requirements to be complied with.

Important: The protective effect of an FFP2 mask is significantly better if it is worn correctly and tightly fitted. A properly fitted FFP2 mask seals tightly against the face, effectively filtering air during inhalation as well as exhalation. However, this is problematic for beard wearers, as the mask may not seal tightly in this case.

The denser material increases breathing resistance. According to the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, they can be worn for up to more than 100 minutes during light physical work, but no binding specifications can be made due to situational and personal factors.

When does the health insurance pay for FFP masks??

In exceptional cases, statutory health insurance companies cover the costs of FFP2 or FFP3 masks for high-risk groups (such as after an organ transplant and/or in the case of existing immune deficiency) after a doctor’s prescription. This also applies within the framework of long-term care insurance for the protection of the person in need of care. Ask your statutory health and long-term care insurance whether the costs can be covered.

Privately insured persons should ask their private health insurance whether costs can be covered in special cases of illness.

Can FFP2 masks be reused??

FFP2 masks are typically used in healthcare settings in areas with an increased risk of infection. FFP2 masks should not be used more than once, as they are usually single-use products, which is also indicated by the label NR for "non-reusable", not reusable, is recognizable. FFP2 masks are made for occupational safety and last for at least eight hours in total. You can also add up the time spent wearing them – for example, if you only wear them while riding the bus and shopping.

However, viruses on the masks can be infectious for several days.

The University of Applied Sciences Munster, sponsored by the Federal Office for Drug Safety and Medical Devices, together with experts from virology, microbiology, hygiene and other disciplines, has investigated the reusability and possibilities for disinfection of FFP2 masks. They found that under certain conditions, cleaning and reuse of the masks is possible. The FH Munster brochure on reusability is available for download and will be updated regularly according to further research.

What about surgical masks?

Many people now wear so-called surgical or medical face masks. With an approval according to DIN EN 14683 this type of mask is considered a medical face mask. They are made of special plastics and have a multi-layer structure. They protect people in the immediate vicinity from droplets that the mask wearer emits from the mouth and nose, for example, when speaking or coughing.

They reduce the speed and distance at which even so-called aerosols spread forward. Medical face masks are medical devices and were developed for external protection. Above all, they protect the other person from infectious droplets emitted by the mouthguard wearer. In addition, single-use medical face masks are provided.

A study by the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen showed that even poorly fitting FFP2 masks still provide better protection than a well-fitting surgical mask. However, the study also confirmed that surgical masks offer significantly higher protection than maskless distance.

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