The Federal Office of Public health (FOPH/BAG) has published a overview of the types of face mask, showing which masks are considered safe to wear or not. The surprise is that FFP2 masks are not recommended to be worn by the general public, because, according to the health department, they have to be super tight in order to be worn properly, and more often than not are not worn like this.
The full report can be found on:
The report also gives further details of the various types of masks:
In Switzerland it’s compulsory to wear a mask in many different places. The following general rule applies: wear a mask if you’re not at home and can’t distance from other people at all times. The mask should always cover your nose and mouth.
Different types of mask
The graphic shows which masks we recommend for everyday use. Lower down in the text you’ll also see what quality requirements masks must meet plus additional information on the different types of masks.
Medical face mask/surgical mask (sometimes with a clear window)
Make sure you use surgical masks meeting the following requirements:
- Standard: EN 14683
- Information on the packaging: CE marking and information on the manufacturer, including address
There are three types of EN 14683 face mask with different levels of filter efficiency. For everyday use we recommend Types II and IIR:
- Type I: 95% filter efficiency
- Type II: 98% filter efficiency
- Type IIR: Filter efficiency of 98%; the R in the designation indicates additional splash resistance
Surgical masks, when used correctly, primarily protect other people from infection (protecting others). These types of mask also protect wearers themselves to a certain extent (protecting yourself). So if you have symptoms of an acute respiratory disease, wear a surgical mask to protect your fellow human beings.
Community mask (industrially manufactured textile mask; sometimes with a clear window)
There is no legally binding quality standard for community masks. Make sure you use community masks meeting the following requirement:
- Marked with the TESTEX or SQTS label
- Reference to the “SNR 30000” rule from the Swiss Association for Standardisation (SNV)
Community masks that, for example, have the TESTEX or SQTS (in German) label or are marked “SNR 30000” meet the Science Task Force’s minimum requirements. The efficacy of this kind of community mask is comparable with the efficacy of surgical masks (see above). You will find the latest recommendation, including detailed information on the requirements, on the Science Task Force website.
Community masks, when used correctly, primarily protect other people from infection. This type of mask also protects the person wearing it to a certain extent. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care of community masks.
Neck gaiters worn for skiing, for example, also count as community masks and should meet the recommendations of the Science Task Force.
Filtering face piece (FFP), FFP2/FFP3 mask or, for example, N95 or KN95 mask
The use of FFP masks is not recommended for private use. Even in the current situation where new variants of the virus are spreading, we do not presently recommend the use of filtering face pieces (respirator) masks such as FFP2 masks for private use. Filtering face piece masks were developed to protect people doing certain kinds of work from particulate matter, and are recommended, for example, for nurses, only when involved in specific, especially risky procedures. Depending on the development of the situation and the scientific findings, however, adjustments to this recommendation cannot be ruled out.
Respirator masks such as FFP2 masks can be difficult to handle and wear correctly to provide reliable protection. This means that besides the correct use of the mask, additional measures such as distancing and hand hygiene are also particularly important for protection.
Other types of face masks (home-made textile face mask, DIY face mask, etc)
These types of masks only provide reliable protection under certain circumstances. They must be made of multi-layered fabrics that meet the recommendations of the Science Task Force.
Covering your face with a scarf of cloth does not protect you sufficiently from becoming infected, and is of only limited use in protecting others. A scarf or cloth should not be used instead of a mask.
Clear face protection
There are also clear masks and face coverings. We do not recommend most of these products for everyday use – only for certain exceptional situations.
Mask with a clear window
You may wear a mask with a clear window, provided that it meets the same standards as medical/surgical or community masks (see above).
Visors (shields) may not be used as a substitute for a mask. Visors are attached loosely at the forehead. They protect the eyes from possible droplet infection, but they do not rule out infection via the mouth and nose. They only serve as an additional protective measure, and can be worn in the following exceptional situations:
Clear plastic face covering
Clear plastic face coverings are also available on the market. They have a similar shape to a mask, covering the nose and mouth, fitting the sides of the face closely and extending to below the chin. Below the chin, the covering is open to allow exhaled air to escape. We recommend using a clear face covering only in the following exceptional situation:
Clear plastic shield
Clear plastic shields attached around the chin are designed to protect from saliva. But they don’t provide protection from infection via the air people breathe in and out. For this reason, plastic shields of this sort may not be used as a substitute for a mask.
You will find further information from Swissmedic and the Science Task Force in the Links tab.
Wearing a mask correctly
Please note the following information about using masks properly:
- Use: The mask needs to cover both your nose and mouth. Wash your hands before putting on and taking off the mask, or use hand sanitiser. Touch the mask as little as possible. Community masks can be used several times, as they can be washed. Disposable face masks (surgical masks) should be used only once.
- Repeat use: If you use a mask several times – for example because you have only worn it for a short period – hand hygiene and ensuring the correct use and storage of the mask are important: make sure to wash or disinfect your hands before putting the mask on and taking it off, and touch the mask as little as possible. Important: if you have an acute respiratory disease, you should use a disposable face mask and definitely only use it once.
- Storage in the case of repeated use: If possible, after use hang your mask on a hook so that it does not come into contact with any other objects. If this is not possible, keep it in a paper bag, an envelope or cloth pouch so that you can transport it without it touching other objects in your bag. This will prevent viruses that may be present from being passed on. Plastic bags and covers are not suitable for storage purposes, as they are not permeable to air and the masks do not dry inside them. The viruses also live longer on plastic than they do on paper.
- Washing: Disposable face masks (surgical masks) cannot be washed. Community masks can be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Duration: You can wear a disposable face mask for up to four hours. Take note of how damp it gets – the damper the mask, the less effective it is at protecting you and others. With community masks, take note of the information provided by the manufacturer.
- Disposal: Masks can be disposed of as usual household waste. Make sure that a used mask does not come into contact with anything other than other waste products. Close the bin bag securely. If you are not at home, you can dispose of a used mask in a public waste bin. Wash or disinfect your hands after touching a used mask.
- People with beards: It makes no difference if you have a beard or not. It is just important to ensure that the mask covers both your nose and your mouth.