Bonn The first day of the stricter mask requirement went smoothly in Bonn – as was apparent when taking a look-around in lanes and shops. However, pitfalls lurk in the choice of model – and they are often not easy to spot.
Decided and implemented: In Bonn, the obligation to wear medical masks, as it applies to certain areas of life since Monday, has been implemented largely without noise. With a few exceptions, on the first day people seemed to comply with the new regulations, which are limited for the time being until 14 February.
Medical masks (surgical masks) or the higher-quality FFP2 masks must be worn for this period on buses and trains, in shops, in doctors' surgeries and other medical facilities, and in places of worship.
In many shops and bakeries on Monday morning, the vast majority of customers were equipped with OP masks - significantly fewer with the FFP2 models - and thus in compliance with the rules. Here and there a friendly reminder from a saleswoman could be heard. It is practical when, as in a supermarket on Kölnstraße, the surgical masks are also on the shelves.
At prices of around 25 cents a piece, buying them in packs of fifty or a hundred is boosting the business of mail-order companies in particular. Market leaders like Amazon also guaranteed a delivery time of two to three days on Monday. Jannis Vassiliou, chairman of the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg retail association, welcomes the new regulation "because it increases the safety of everyone and also of the employees in the shops".
As the FFP2 masks are easily recognisable, there are no particular challenges. It only becomes problematic when customers want to enter the shop with other masks and a discussion arises. Vassiliou: "In this case, we recommend that retailers have a medical mask ready and give it to the consumer free of charge. This would put an end to discussions. “
Most passengers on buses and trains also seemed to have heard about the change in the mask rule on Monday, although there were still people wearing cloth masks. However, the majority of seats on line 66, which arrived at Bertha-von-Suttner-Platz around eleven o'clock, were empty anyway. Nevertheless, the public utility company and the public order office announced that they would consistently check compliance with the new mask rules. "With a view to the announced obligation to wear medical masks, the city's public order service will again increase its checks on buses and trains. It will take action if someone is obviously not wearing a medical mask, but scarves, shawls or cloth masks," the city and the public utility company announced upon request. Recently, there have been almost no more violations of the mask requirement in buses and trains, according to the public transport company.
The fact that this could now change again, at least formally, is the result of a small but fine detail that the Association of Transport Companies (VDV) pointed out to its members a few days ago: the medical mask requires a CE mark, but it is visually indistinguishable from other commercially available 3-layer face masks (FFP1 standard) because they have an identical structure. Above all, the models from manufacturers outside the EU - which are usually much cheaper at ten cents per mask - often lack the CE (Conformité Européenne), but otherwise look exactly like the models that comply with the regulations - and may perform the same technically and qualitatively, which, by the way, has also been confirmed by consumer protection organisations since the outbreak of the pandemic. But only with the CE mark does the multi-layered cellulose mask become an EU-certified medical product.
The Bonn-based Federal Office for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) also explicitly refers to the CE mark in its definition of medical masks. Last but not least, the authority at Robert-Schuman-Platz unmistakably designates surgical masks as disposable products. So far, however, there has been no talk of penalising multiple use, probably not only because of the impossibility of checking. And the acceptance of surgical masks with or without CE is likely to remain at the meticulous or generous discretion of inspectors and shop owners. The city and the public utility company did not go into these details when asked.
By the way, all this is not of interest to customers in the car parks of shops and in front of their entrances. The cloth mask will still suffice there. The same applies to playgrounds, kindergartens and schools, which are currently closed anyway. Children up to school age are still exempt from the mask requirement. And also for children up to 14 years of age: If a medical mask does not fit them, they may wear an everyday mask as a substitute.
Original text: Rüdiger Franz
Translation: Mareike Graepel