From Monday, Bavaria will be introducing an obligation to wear FFP2 masks on buses, trains and in shops.
The masks not only protect other people, but also those who wear them, said Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) on Tuesday after a meeting of the state cabinet in Munich.
Bavaria's Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, sees the use of FFP2 masks in places where people outside the family come closer to reduce the risk of infection.
He also justified the regulation by stating that the masks would enable economic sectors such as trade to be reopened.
They are thus an alternative to "another week-long extension" of the lockdown.
"Effective measures to protect against infection are better than a lockdown that takes too long and further damages the economy," said the ministry.
Because the duty comes quite abruptly, however, many questions arise.
WELT answers the most important.
What's the point of duty?
FFP2 masks offer better protection than their counterparts made of cotton or other fabrics.
“In view of the still very high number of infections, the obligation to wear FFP2 masks is the right decision to effectively protect yourself and others.
The population's awareness of FFP2 masks has increased, so it's a logical development, ”says Thomas Preis, Chairman of the North Rhine Pharmacists' Association.
“Trade and local transport are the only places where there are currently still large crowds.
I think it makes sense to provide better protection there - by the way, the masks would also be right in the workplace. "
Where do the FFP2 masks come from?
In May 2020, the Federal Ministry of Economics decided to subsidize mask manufacturers from Germany, for which almost 300 companies had applied by the end of last year.
Further funding was approved in December for research projects on the production of innovative protective equipment - the aim is to strengthen the international competitiveness of German companies.
But a large part of the protective equipment is still imported from the Far East.
When it comes to where people buy the masks, a run on Bavarian pharmacies may break out.
Others could go online and stock up on masks via Amazon and Co.
A general problem with this: In the past few months there have been repeated reports of forged certificates and poor quality masks that had been distributed in clinics and schools.
Are there enough FFP2 masks available?
Almost 13 million people live in Bavaria.
If one assumes one mask per week - which, however, speaks against medical recommendations - 13 million masks should be available per week.
Markus Söder said: "The availability in retail is sufficiently guaranteed".
However, he did not provide any evidence of this.
Neither the Bavarian State Chancellery nor the Ministry of Health could substantiate this statement when asked by WELT.
"Since mid-December, pharmacies have supplied around 27 million people in Germany with FFP2 masks, which corresponds to around a third of all adults," says Apotheker Preis.
“That's why I believe that it is also feasible to provide care for everyone in a state like Bavaria.
Suppliers and pharmacies could handle the quantities, I estimate the market in such a way that this is possible. "
Katharina Schulze, leader of the Greens in Bavaria, doubts that it has been clarified whether enough masks will be available in the long term.
Your assumption: Markus Söder is more likely to be “about a quick headline again”.
Who pays for the masks?
The users bear the costs themselves - in addition to the short-term nature of the arrangement, this is one of the reasons for criticism.
There is an exception for people aged 60 and over and those with special previous illnesses.
You should get one mask per week by presenting a voucher in the pharmacy.
This applies to all of Germany.
How does this distribution by voucher work so far?
There are significant problems.
In a first round, in December, masks were handed out on presentation of ID.
For the second round, a forgery-proof voucher system has now been developed.
The new strategy of the Federal Ministry of Health provides for citizens of 60 and over and those with special pre-existing conditions to be given FFP2 masks in pharmacies - after the health insurance companies have received a voucher by post.
However, this must first be returned to the health insurance companies by the Federal Printing Office.
But now Bundesdruckerei is too late - shipping is delayed.
Individual health insurance companies have already reported that it will take until the end of January to deliver the vouchers by post.
A bottleneck threatens here in particular.
Pharmacists therefore demand pragmatic solutions.
“For the transition until all vouchers have been delivered, those in need should receive three more FFP2 masks free of charge - upon presentation of their ID.
That would take a lot of pressure off the boiler, ”says Thomas Preis.
How long can an FFP2 mask be worn?
Actually no more than eight hours.
Because, similar to surgical masks, FFP2 masks are also single-use products.
In contrast to cotton masks, FFP2 masks are also not intended to be washed and reused.
The bill from the Federal Ministry of Health - one mask per week - was already conservative.
If the wearing time is significantly increased as a result of the new obligation, the risk increases that the masks will become damp, incorrectly stored and that bacteria and viruses will collect and multiply as a result.
What does an FFP2 mask cost?
When shopping, you can get an FFP2 mask for less than one euro.
But the prices vary widely.
As early as December, criticism of the Ministry of Health's pricing was loud.
Pharmacists receive six euros from the federal government for each mask - ultimately tax money.
The costs for the first round of distribution alone amounted to almost 500 million euros.
In pharmacies - without a voucher system - 3 to 5 euros are usually required.
Online prices are usually lower.
If demand increases significantly, prices could also rise significantly.
This logical effect could already be observed in spring - albeit on a larger scale and with a different starting point.
How should the duty be controlled?
It is still unclear.
Controls by the police, the public order office and the transport companies have been in place in public transport for months.
So far, Söder has left it open whether every person who wears a surgical mask or one made of cotton could henceforth be punished.
Are there any similar initiatives outside of Bavaria?
A few politicians reacted maliciously to Söder's initiative, but there is also approval.
The duty makes sense, said members of the Bundestag from the Left and the Greens, for example.
However, this only applies if the state provides the masks sufficiently and free of charge.
“Anyone who makes FFP2 masks compulsory must also make them available free of charge, at least for people with little money.
Those who leave that to the market are deliberately excluding ”, writes, for example, the deputy federal chairwoman of the Greens Ricarda Lang on Twitter.
However, a look back at the Corona regulations shows that other countries following Söder's advances would not be the first time by far.
And Bavaria's Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, uses the new obligation to swipe at the federal government.
“First and foremost, we need effective measures, not just tough measures, as Ms. Merkel recently announced.
I hope that federal politicians will take note of today's decision on FFP2 masks from Bavaria. "
"I am sure that this will be discussed at the next Senate meeting," said Berlin Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz (SPD).
However, he has concerns: Hospitals and scientists have regularly heard on the subject that FFP2 masks have to be removed after a relatively short time and are not easy to clean and reuse with generally available means, said Kollatz.
"So you have to see how you deal with it."
Government spokesman Florian Engels said there is no FFP2 obligation in Brandenburg.
The same applies to Rhineland-Palatinate, where a spokeswoman for the state chancellery made a similar statement.
In Lower Saxony, such an obligation is only considered if it is really ensured that all people have free access to such a mask, said government spokeswoman Anke Pörksen in Hanover.
"Otherwise we would exclude parts of the population from the absolutely vital visit to a supermarket or a bakery to buy food or to use public transport to go to the doctor or a pharmacy or wherever."