Cloth masks ‘outlawed’ in France, Austria, Germany: Portuguese experts ‘divided’

Cloth masks – or ‘community masks’ – have been outlawed for use in public spaces in various European countries due to their inability to efficiently block particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause Covid-19.

While populations in France, Austria and Germany are being told to use either professional FFP1 or FFP2 ‘dust masks’, advice to Portuguese citizens remains ‘the same’ – and the nation’s experts share different opinions on the best way forwards.

Says Observador, there are those that advise the use of two masks at once, others suggest FFP2 masks and some stick with recommendations that currently exist (that citizens can wear cloth masks that comply with the indications of ASAE health & safety entity, and surgical masks. 

But “all agree that it is necessary to comply better with the rules”, says the online – meaning physical distancing remains key.

The overriding reason for not making professional masks compulsory in Portugal is that they “should be reserved for health professionals in daily contact with cases of Covid-19”.

Supply also would not cover the wider public – and that’s before one considers the cost factor: these masks cost over €10 each and are not reusable.

Nevertheless, the nation’s transmission rate is growing, and has been over the Rt of 1 (the point where the number of cumulative cases ‘takes off’) for the last 24 days.

Said a source for national health institute Dr Ricardo Jorge yesterday, “during this period, the Rt rate has varied between 1.01 and 1.25”.

As Portugal announced on Saturday that the pandemic has prompted the deaths of over 10,000 citizens, focus is on how to stem the more rapid transmission of the so-called British variant, ‘on track’ for accounting for 60% of infections in Portugal by the end of the month.

Virologist Celso Cunha has told Observador that the British variant “infects masks more easily, multiples better and originates greater viral loads”.

In his opinion, “if we can increase the efficiency of the barriers we use for our respiratory passages, in the uncertainty of why the virus is more transmissible, then that is what we should be doing…”