The Czech Republic is weighing up following Austria and Bavaria’s lead in making it compulsory to wear full protective filter masks on public transport and in shops.
However, the Minister of Health Jan Blatný (ANO) urges the public to not rush out and buy up the entire supply of respirators.
“They are more effective at reducing the spread of the virus than cotton masks or even the common disposable medical masks that are often used. Any mouth and nose protection is good, but the FFP2 mask is massively better,” he added.
FFP2 masks offer better protection against the coronavirus and other pathogens, with up to 94 percent of aerosols filtered out.
The demand for FFP2 respirators with a nanofiber membrane saw a record on Wednesday when the Czech government first mentioned the possibility of making it compulsory to wear FFP2 in shops and public transport.
What are FFP2 masks?
Otherwise known as FFP2/FFP3, N95 masks, or ‘respirators’, FFP2 masks protect wearers from breathing in hazardous contaminants in the air.
They protect against particles in the air, possibly also against aerosols. They are made of several layers of fabric and paper and have built-in filters.
These masks are said to be more protective than fabric masks or surgical masks.
Who will foot the bill?
FFP2 respirators are significantly more expensive than standard medical masks. If they become mandatory, a family of four will have several options.
“Wear a respirator at work, school, it means using probably two respirators a day for every family member. This is the most expensive solution, around 8,800 CZK per month. However, the respirator can be disinfected and therefore extend its using. The total cost per family would be about CZK 3,000 per month,” said Capitalinked.com analyst Radim Dohnal.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD), there are about 16 million respirators available in the country. Since Wednesday, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has been analyzing the production capacities in the country.
The chairman of the Association of the Nanotechnology Industry of the Czech Republic, Jiří Kůs, said on Thursday that Czech manufacturers of nanofiber respirators have a monthly production capacity of four million units. If necessary, it can immediately be increased to five million per month.
In Austria, FFP2 will be soon mandatory
From January 25th, FFP2 masks will be required in all retail shops and supermarkets, along with public transport throughout Austria.
Previously, cotton masks or scarves were sufficient to satisfy the regulation.
Austria put in place a range of stricter rules after a meeting on January 17th, including extending the lockdown until February 7th.
Authorities in Austria, meanwhile, have promised to make FFP2 respirators available at cost price and to provide them for free to low-income households.