Germany’s 16 federal states have made it mandatory for people to wear face masks when they enter shops or board public transport from next Monday.
It was up to each state to decide whether it would insist on mouth-and-nose covering in public, and several of them already mandated masks last week. There are no set rules about what kind of masks they should be – home-made cotton ones are also acceptable as protection.
Johns Hopkins University data shows that as of Wednesday, Germany has 148,704 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 5,100 recorded deaths.
Authorities have stressed that wearing a face mask does not mean people should not stick to social distancing rules — the masks can only help prevent asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus from infecting others.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a recent report that masks may prevent people spreading respiratory droplets by coughing or sneezing.
While many EU countries strongly recommend that people should use some form of mask, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria all made mask-wearing compulsory.
In the UK, the government is reportedly set to require people to wear masks in public soon.
Germany took the first steps towards easing the country-wide lockdown this week, with small shops of up to 800m floor-space allowed to reopen; including car dealerships. Some classes in primary and secondary schools are allowed to begin from 4 May.
Strict lockdowns still apply to public movement — only in groups of two, apart from members of one family — and the 1.5m social distance rules will be in place until further notice. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned this week that Germany is still at the beginning of the pandemic, urging people to follow rules as “it would be a crying shame if we had a relapse with our eyes open.”