Public health, 12.03.2021

Corona masks: Federal Office of Public Health

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:
https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/masken.html


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:

There are three types of EN 14683 face mask with different levels of filter efficiency. For everyday use we recommend Types II and IIR:

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:

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.  


Scarf

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).


Visor (shield)

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:

On close bodily contact where one person cannot wear a mask


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:

To facilitate communication: lip reading


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: