Germans don compulsory masks as lockdown eases

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Masks are on sale at markets such as here in Berlin - REUTERS

BBC News

Germans have started wearing facemasks outside the home as new rules come into force to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The use of cloth masks is now mandatory on public transport and, in most regions, within shops.

The rules vary among the 16 German states – Bavaria being the strictest, while in Berlin shoppers do not have to wear masks.

But the authorities are moving very cautiously in easing the lockdown.

Across the world countries are coming up with their own guidance on mask-wearing. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) advice suggests people should wear protective masks only if they are sick and showing symptoms, or if they are caring for people suspected to have Covid-19.

It says masks are not recommended for the general public because they can be contaminated by coughs and sneezes, and might offer a false sense of security.

German media report that mask-wearing is now required in school corridors and when children go on breaks, but not in the classroom. Students sit in class spaced apart and there is more frequent cleaning with disinfectant.

Students preparing for their school leaving exams are also back in class. Most German schoolchildren are still at home under lockdown.

The German authorities require mask-wearing at stations and on buses and trains, but not yet on long-distance trains.

Masks in Berlin U-Bahn, 26 Apr 20
A vending machine for masks in a Berlin U-Bahn (underground) station

Home-made cloth masks are acceptable; people are not expected to wear hospital-style intensive care masks. These are now on sale in station vending machines and at markets.

Monday also saw some further easing of the lockdowns in the Czech Republic and Switzerland, while Italy has set out a detailed plan for easing its lockdown which remains one of the strictest in Europe.

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