The German Infektionsschutzgesetz (Infection Protection Act) was amended March 20, 2022. In addition to other measures, the mask requirement in public spaces is no longer applicable. Here I would like to explain why I don’t think this is right, and why it is important to continue to wear a mask in public spaces, even if it’s not mandatory.
Who are these Persons at Risk?
Persons at risk do not exist exclusively in old-age homes or hospitals, where masks are still mandatory, but amidst society. At least half the population have at least one risk factor for severe infection (e.g. 22% over 60, 24% obesity, 9% diabetes) or long Covid (e.g. 5% autoimmune, 25% allergies, 6% asthma), even if many are not even aware.
Persons at risk are family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and classmates. People at risk are those who sit or stand in front of, next to or behind you on the bus or in the shop. Many of them don’t even talk about it (or only with closest family and friends) because they don’t want bullying or pity. They simply want to live their lives, like everyone else.
Isn’t it enough if Those in Need of Protection wear a Mask?
Masks are significantly more effective when they are worn by infected people, whose droplets and aerosols do not spread through the mask at all – or, depending on the mask, very little – in the room, than when only those who want to protect themselves wear a mask. That’s exactly why there has been a general mask requirement until now!
In addition to the route of infection via the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, the route of infection via the eyes, which are not protected by your own mask, but only by the mask of the other person, is often overlooked.
Furthermore, there is a direct correlation between the viral load that leads to infection and the severity of the course and long-term damage. This means that if infected people do not wear a mask, the viral load in the room increases very quickly and thus leads to more infections with even more severe courses and more long-term damage.
What do Science and Polls say about Mask Mandates?
In their current statement, the diverse German Expertenrat (expert council) is unanimously in favor of the mask mandates, and even justifies this: “Masks offer(s) a high level of effectiveness with fewer individual restrictions.”
Surprisingly, most people even seem to understand that! In the RTL/NTV trend barometer, 69% of those surveyed are in favor of maintaining the mask requirement, only 11% are in favor of abolishing it. In a BfR survey, 71% of those surveyed are cöearly in favor of others “taking measures to prevent the transmission of the (…) coronavirus”.
There is no conclusive reason why such an effective, reasonable protective measure as the obligation to wear masks should no longer apply, at least in public spaces, i.e. local and long-distance transport, medical practices, offices, grocery stores, schools; ideally also retail, university and workplace – simply the places that nobody can avoid!
Next to those, there are a whole lot of places that people go to for fun (e.g. restaurants, bars, clubs, associations, etc.) – and where those who don’t care whether they get infected or not can live it up to their heart’s content.
I’ve been vaccinated, so what’s supposed to happen?
We can be very thankful that the vaccines exist – even if the current vaccines in combination with the current variants do not eliminate the risk of hospitalization or Long Covid, they only halve it! That’s great already, but not enough.
There is little evidence of increased immunity from infection after vaccination. In France, scientists just found that the vaccinated and unvaccinated get infected again after 4-6 weeks on average. Many studies also find that reinfections are usually more severe than previous ones – and the risk of severe infection and long-term sickness (10-40% Long / Post Covid and often permanent damage to the brain, vessels and organs) increases with each infection.
With that in mind, I find it risky to say that Omicron is so mild and unproblematic – and that if you get infected after triple vaccination it’d just be an “immunizing cold”, so therefore we (except the “anxious”) needed no more masks…
Most people think that everything that is allowed is also safe, so even those who are actually sensible will probably no longer wear a mask, become infected and then wonder if they can no longer climb stairs or think straight at ease.
Nothing is gained by infecting the population – including people at risk who have been able to avoid the infection so far. Rather, in addition to the emergence of more dangerous variants, a lot of unnecessary suffering and just as unnecessary costs are accepted. If you include incapacity for work, that’s not even “good for the economy”!
So how is it supposed to go on now?
In addition to more and more effective medivines that are increasingly widely available, the next generation of vaccines is being developed – including mucosal vaccines, which are applied directly to the mucous membranes of the nose and are more likely to produce sterile immunity, as well as special vaccines for immunocompromised people.
Many of these vaccines are currently in test phases – and hopefully, sooner or later, there will be a (more) sterile vaccine! Wouldn’t it make a whole lot of sense to keep masks mandatory in public indoor spaces until then?
In addition, I think it makes perfect sense to continue offering free tests (including serial tests in schools!), to introduce the wastewater monitoring that the EU demands from its member countries, to sequence tests sufficiently and to continue the isolation and quarantine obligations for infected people, and overall, to continue restraining the spread.
Is there Anything I can do to Help?
Thank you for wearing a mask (otherwise you probably wouldn’t have read this far :))! If you want to learn how you can easily test and optimize your high-filtering FFP2, N95 or KN95 masks for new challenges, please read on here.
Anyone who would also like to campaign for the obligation to wear masks in public spaces can not only (a) go to a demonstration (see illustration above :)), but also (b) participate in crowdfunding for a constitutional complaint against the IfSG, (c) sing the petition #IfSGnachbessern, denn solidarischer Corona-Infektionsschutz bedeutet mehr Freiheit für alle!”” and / or sign the petition Maskenpflicht beim Einkaufen und in den Schulen, sowie in öffentlichen Räumen beibehalten”, and (d) contact members of the Bundestag and Landtag by telephone or in writing.