US Army to follow Bavarian rule requiring medical-grade FFP2 or similar masks in stores, on public transportation
January 12, 2021
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GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Bavaria will require people entering shops or using public transportation beginning Monday to wear FFP2 or similar masks, which provide better coronavirus protection than cloth masks but aren’t common among the 40,000-strong U.S. military community in the state.
FFP2 masks are roughly equivalent to the N95 masks used by U.S. medical workers.
Bavaria had allowed people to wear a variety of store-bought and homemade masks in stores, but the state’s top official said Tuesday afternoon that stronger measures were needed to reduce the state’s coronavirus infection rate.
FFP2 masks, which are disposable, should be available in sufficient quantity throughout Bavaria, Minister President Markus Soeder said in Munich on Tuesday.
“We also want to make everyday life safer,” Soeder said in a cabinet meeting, news outlet BR24 reported.
U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria posted on its Facebook page that masks must be worn in accordance with Bavarian rules starting Monday.
“Our community members are responsible for abiding by our host nation and Bavarian government ordinances when using host nation transportation or retail,” 7th Army Training Command spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Weisman said in an email.
N95, KN95 and equivalent masks are acceptable in lieu of the FFP2, the Bavarian Health Ministry said in an emailed statement to Stars and Stripes.
Children ages 6-14 are only required to wear a conventional mask, while those ages 5 and younger do not have to wear a mask, the ministry statement added.
FFP2 masks have a minimum 94% particle filtration percentage, while FFP3 masks filter 99% of particles, according to a May 2020 study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website.
While they are considered one-time use masks for medical professionals, they’ve been used for up to 8 hours in surgery during supply shortages, another study on the website said.
Bavaria has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus since the pandemic became widespread last year. It currently has a seven-day average rate of 391 new cases per 100,000 people daily, according to the national Robert Koch Institute. German authorities are trying to bring the average rate down to 50 per 100,000 people.
“Unfortunately, the measures taken so far have not yet led to the hoped for noticeable and sustainable decrease in the number of infections,” a Bavarian government statement translated on the USAG Bavaria Facebook website said.
In Grafenwoehr, home to the Army’s largest training area in Europe, FFP2 masks were available at local pharmacies Tuesday.
Werner Goetzel, owner of Sebastian Apotheke, said they cost about 4 euros, but didn’t want to disclose how many he had in stock. It usually takes a couple of days to reorder them depending on dealer supplies.
The filtration does make the masks less comfortable to breathe through than more common masks, he said.
“People for example who suffer under asthma have to be cautious with the masks,” he said.