European nations are imposing stricter rules on wearing masks in winter as COVID-19 continues to spread across the continent, rapidly filling hospitals with mostly unvaccinated patients.
Once the pandemic's epicenter, Italy has announced mandatory wearing of FFP2 masks on public transportation like planes, trains, and ferries. FP2s must now be worn at theaters, cinemas, and sports events, indoors or out, and can't be removed even for their wearers to eat or drink.
FFP2 masks offer users more protection compared to surgical and cloth masks. As per NBC Washington, Experts say the mask can filter at least 95% of airborne particles it encounters and form a seal on the user's face.
More than 2 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in Italy, causing job problems. The Italian government views mask-wearing as a measure to aid society's full functioning.
Mandatory Wearing Of Masks Reinstated Across Europe
Other countries in Europe have also implemented tighter measures in wearing masks to manage the rising cases of COVID-19, driven by the mild but highly transmissible omicron variant, as per AP News.
In Spain, the outdoor mask rule was reinstated on Christmas Eve. The infection rate in the country jumped to 2,722 new infections per 100,000 from 40 per 100,000 in mid-October,
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez believes that the mandate has effectively protected people from the virus. "It's science itself saying it because it's a virus that is contracted when one exhales," he said.
Before the end of 2021, Portugal and Greece once again required residents to wear masks in public places.
The Dutch government's agency responsible for pandemic management recommended a mask mandate for people over 13 years old in restaurants, museums, theaters, and indoor sports events.
In France, the government partially reinstated its mask mandate in December, wherein the required age to start wearing masks in public was lowered to 6 from 11.
On Monday, Vatican City State mandated the wearing of FFP2s indoors. Employees in the walled independent state can go to work without going into isolation after contracting someone positive for COVID-19 if they wear the type of mask, in addition to being fully inoculated or having received a booster.
In Britain, the use of masks fell significantly when the government lifted the restrictions in July 2021. As of this writing, the 7-day average of new cases is 136,107. One health care expert pointed out that the country is one good example of the possible outcome when health protocols like wearing masks are not given importance.
Though Britain was among the first countries to vaccinate its residents, "The situation in the U.K showed that use of vaccination alone wasn't enough" to address the pandemic challenges, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Bologna-based GIMBE foundation, as per ABC News.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released an alarming projection about COVID-19 in Western Europe. They predicted that by mid-March, Omicron will have infected over half of the population of countries.
According to Dr. Hans Kluge, the head of WHO Europe, at least 1% of the population in each of the 26 Western European countries has been infected with Omicron.