Intensive care physician: wearing masks slows down the Omikron variant

Status: December 30, 2021 3:57 p.m.

Researchers had already calculated that masks provide good protection against corona infection. Do they also help against the impending omicron wave? Yes, say intensive care physicians – and also refer to countries that have used masks less than Germany.

Omikron is spreading further and further: The particularly contagious coronavirus variant already has numerous countries firmly under control. With this in mind, intensive care physicians urge not to neglect the importance of masks. “If we stick to it in a disciplined manner and wear medical mouth and nose protection, then we get the omicron wave pushed,” said the president of the Society for Internal Intensive Care Medicine and Emergency Medicine (DGIIN), Christian Karagiannidis, im rbb.

By wearing masks, the time in which the Omikron cases double has been extended to four days in Germany. In England and Denmark, on the other hand, the speed of two days is “exorbitantly fast”.

Both England and Denmark are currently seeing a rapid increase in the number of infections. However, England had only tightened the mask requirement a few weeks ago in view of the spread of omicrons: It now applies in public buildings, in local transport and in shops. Before that, masks were no longer mandatory in museums, theaters or in the cinema since the summer. In Denmark, the mask requirement was only reintroduced in November – after months without restrictions – for example when shopping and in local public transport.

Mask compulsory outdoors in Paris

The French capital Paris also wants to fight the Omikron wave by consistently wearing masks. From Friday onwards, everyone over the age of twelve would have to wear a face mask outside. There are exceptions for cyclists and motorcyclists, vehicle occupants and athletes. Violations can result in a fine of 135 euros. So far, the protective masks had to be worn in shops, public facilities and office buildings as well as on public transport in Paris.

Driven by the new virus variant, the number of new infections in neighboring Germany recently rose to a new record high: France reported 208,000 new confirmed cases on Wednesday.

High protection of FFP2 masks

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen calculated in a study a few weeks ago that medical masks – and especially FFP2 masks – offer high to very high protection against corona infection. With a correctly fitting FFP2 mask for both infected and healthy people, the risk of infection in the interior at a short distance after 20 minutes is only 0.1 percent.

With poorly fitting FFP2 masks, on the other hand, the risk of infection in the same scenario is around four percent, the team calculates. With surgical masks, a good fit is enough to reduce the risk of infection to a maximum of ten percent.

Without a mask, a healthy person at a distance of three meters in the breath of an infected person is very likely to be infected after just a few minutes, according to the researchers.

Incidence increases slightly

For Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 42,770 new corona cases on Thursday. The seven-day incidence increased slightly to 207.4. The day before the nationwide value was 205.5, a week ago it was 280.3. However, the figures are only partially meaningful because the data can provide an incomplete picture due to the low test and reporting activity during the holidays.

The RKI also reported an increasing number of confirmed Omikron cases: the health authorities have recorded a total of 16,748 infections with the virus variant since mid-November. Within one day, 3,619 new cases were added – an increase of 28 percent. The RKI also registered another death in connection with the variant. The total number of deceased in the Omicron count increased to five.

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