Bonn The piece of cloth in front of the mouth and nose will soon be part of everyday life - on Monday, masks will also be compulsory in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. The state government in Düsseldorf had long relied on voluntarism. Now it is following the wishes of many municipalities and is correcting its course. Questions and answers.
Why is there this change of course in NRW?
"We have sensed the clear desire of numerous mayors to provide for appropriate regulations," admitted local minister Ina Scharrenbach (CDU). Many heads of administration had expressed their concern that the streets would become fuller again without the majority of people following the mask recommendation. On Monday, Münster had pushed forward with a compulsory mask. More cities threatened to follow.
How had the state government argued so far?
At the beginning of the week, Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) had justified the voluntary wearing of everyday masks by saying that the trade could not ensure that all citizens were provided with sufficient masks. This argument now seems to be of secondary importance: "We must do everything that helps to prudently find the way back to a life of normality. Making masks mandatory in some areas of public life can provide useful support in this respect", declared Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) on Wednesday.
What applies now?
From Monday onwards, masks must be worn when shopping and when riding buses and trains - both in NRW and in Rhineland-Palatinate. The details of the regulation will be worked out in the state chancelleries. The issue will also be what sanctions can be taken if the mask obligation is not observed. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Düsseldorf Ministry of Justice announced that employees or visitors of courts would not have to wear a mask. He said that other protective measures, such as keeping sufficient distance, would be used.
Who has to get the masks?
The state of NRW does not feel obliged to make the masks available, as NRW Minister of Economic Affairs Andreas Pinkwart (FDP) made clear: "Of course, it is first of all up to each citizen to equip himself accordingly," he said. But the trade had assured him that they saw no problems in getting the supply "organised from Monday". In addition, many citizens had taken the production of masks into their own hands. The North Rhine-Westphalian Pharmacists' Association also reported that the now tense supply situation with mouth and nose masks or fabric masks had improved.
What does the opposition in NRW say?
What has been decided so far does not go far enough for the SPD: faction leader Thomas Kutschaty called the regulation "half-hearted" and "insufficient". He said that it must also apply to public buildings such as schools, town halls, and courts. The fact that education minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) rejects a general obligation for schools to wear masks leads to the absurd situation that the pupils have to put on masks in the school bus and then pack them away for school attendance. He also criticized that now masks would have to be worn in the S-Bahn, but not in the IC. "A conclusive overall concept is missing."
What's the mask for?
By covering the mouth and nose, the risk of infecting other people with the coronavirus should be minimized. Self-sewn fabric masks or scarves and shawls pulled over the face are also permitted as a protective barrier. However, these everyday masks are (a) makeshift and do not meet the requirements for medical mouth and nose protection. There is no such thing as 100 percent safety. Even with masks you should keep the distance rules and cough and sneeze properly: in the crook of your arm.
But the mask also helps: it is a visible signal to others that you are careful in the face of the corona virus. It is also designed to intercept droplets that you emit when you speak or laugh - and thus protect others to a certain extent from infection if you are carrying Sars-CoV-2. Wearers also protect themselves to a certain extent. For example, the mask can prevent people from touching their nose or mouth with dirty hands and thus possibly allowing pathogens to enter their bodies.
(Are) Is there any experience with wearing a mask?
In Jena, where an obligation to wear protective masks when shopping and on public transport was introduced on April 6, there has been no new infection since April 13.
Which material is suitable?
Firmly woven fabrics are more suitable than lightly woven ones, says the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). This means that the stitches should be as tight as possible - but not so tight that it is difficult to breathe. Ideally, the fabric of the mask should consist of 100 percent cotton, the Bavarian Ministry of Health recommends.
How should the masks be cleaned?
After wearing the mask, it is best to wash it immediately at a temperature of at least 60 degrees with a heavy-duty detergent. If you don't want to start the washing machine, leave hot water with a little detergent in the sink. In order not to scald your fingers when washing your hands, you should first equip yourself with a stick and stir the mask back and forth in the water. Once it is sufficiently cooled down, rinse and wring it again properly by hand. Speaking of hands: Before putting on the mask, wash them thoroughly so that the mask stays clean. The same applies when you take it off - because pathogens could spread around from the outside of the face shield.
What about cleaning in the microwave?
If the fabric can withstand it, the mask can also be cleaned again by hot ironing or in the warm oven. Be careful when cleaning in the microwave: masks with wire hangers should never be placed in the microwave, as there is an acute fire hazard.
Where can I get the masks?
Many textile manufacturers now also produce masks. Many fabric shops, tailors or designers sell them. Private individuals offer their masks on the Internet, for example via the Etsy platform. Those who know how to use a needle and thread simply sew the protection themselves - online there are templates for patterns.
What alternatives are there?
It may be enough to cover your mouth, nose and cheeks with a scarf or cloth. Some federal states explicitly mention this as an alternative, others do not consider it. As with masks, the fabric should be as dense as possible and made of cotton, explains the Bavarian Ministry of Health. And after wearing it, the advice is also valid: wash at at least 60 degrees.
Original text: Florentine Dame and Tom Nebe (with material from dpa)
Translation: Mareike Graepel