Coronavirus: RKI recommends wearing protective masks

Coronavirus: RKI recommends wearing protective masks

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Robert Koch Institute changes assessment of mouth protection

While at the beginning of the cornavirus pandemic the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) did not consider it necessary to wear a face mask, the institute is now changing its assessment. Since some infected people show no symptoms at all, but still pass on the pathogen, the RKI recommends wearing mouth-nose protection or makeshift masks from now on.

Scarce goods, helpful accessories or essential items of clothing - masks are discussed again and again in the Corona crisis. But what do the individual mask types use? The Robert Koch Institute now comes to the conclusion: If people wear a mask as a precaution, this could reduce the risk of viruses being transmitted to others.

Adjusted assessment

In the corona crisis, the RKI changed its assessment of wearing face masks. If people wear a mask as a precautionary measure - even without symptoms - this could reduce the risk of viruses being transmitted to others, according to the website of the federal authority. But that is not scientifically proven. Previously, the RKI had recommended the mouthguard only to people with acute respiratory diseases. Not everyone infected with Sars-CoV-2 also notices that, it said.

Asymptomatic sufferers pass on the virus

Some infected people do not get sick at all, but could still pass on the pathogen. Rules for coughing and sneezing, hand hygiene and the minimum distance should continue to be observed even with masks. In addition, there is no sufficient evidence that mouth-nose protection or a self-made mask protects you from infection. In its new assessment, the RKI refers to so-called mouth-nose protection and makeshift masks made of fabric. An overview of the different protective masks:

Homemade masks

There are numerous sewing patterns and folding instructions for a self-made mouthguard - or community mask. This is a particularly smart idea given the scarcity of medical masks, virologist Christian Drosten told the NDR. The protective properties depend heavily on the material and use. Firmly woven fabrics are more suitable than lightly woven fabrics. However, the masks do not have a scientifically proven protective effect. However, it is believed that they reduce the risk of infection because they can reduce droplet ejection and support awareness of being careful with yourself and others. Hygiene regulations and distance rules should still be observed.

Mouth-nose protection

These masks are primarily used to protect people. They are currently scarce in medical facilities. The so-called mouth-nose protection also traps liquid splashes and droplets in the exhaled air of the person wearing it. This can reduce the risk of infecting another person through coughing, sneezing, or speaking. They can also protect the wearer from larger droplets from the environment. They also do not offer adequate protection against viruses and bacteria because the masks do not sit on the face. For example, small droplets can be inhaled in the air. With these masks, the rules for hand hygiene and safety distance continue to apply.

FFP masks

The abbreviation FFP stands for Filtering Face Piece. They are divided into three classes: 1, 2 and 3. They protect to different degrees from solid and liquid particles, with 3 being the highest protection class. To protect against corona viruses, experts recommend masks of class 2 and 3. Because the filter of an FFP-3 mask is very dense, breathing is difficult. The mask can therefore only be worn for short periods. Medical masks, including surgical masks, are currently often in short supply. Many experts therefore advocate that these protective masks be reserved primarily for hospitals, medical practices and nursing homes. (vb; source: dpa)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • RKI: Answers to frequently asked questions about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (as of April 3, 2020),
  • Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM): Information from the BfArM on the use of self-made masks (so-called "community masks"), medical mouth and nose protection (MNS) and filtering half masks (FFP2 and FFP3) in connection with the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19) (as of March 31, 2020),

Video: Coronavirus outbreak: WHO recommends wearing non-medical masks in public (January 2023).