Covid: are FFP2 masks necessary to fight against Omicron?

Published by Cécile D. · Published on 4 January 2022 at 17h26
Are surgical masks effective enough to fight against Omicron? According to some scientists and politicians, it is urgent to impose FFP2 mask-wearing to the general public, more effective against the spread of the virus.

I call for the generalization of the FFP2. We will come to it, I bet, because this mask protects more […] up to 100 times more”, Eric Ciotti claimed this Sunday January 2, 2022, on LCI. Alpes-Maritimes LR deputy wishes to impose FFP2 mask-wearing in the public area, a tool far more effective to fight against Omicron, the politician considers.

An opinion shared by Paris deputy mayor entrusted with health Anne Souyris, who considers this mask should be worn “in public transits, in crowded places and where one stays for a while”.

FFP2 masks – easily recognizable with their “duck’s beak shape” are more hermetic than surgical masks: they cover the face from below the eyes, down to the chin, without letting air go through. Its filtration capacity reaches 94% for fine and toxic particles. “The big difference between the FFP2 and the surgical is the FFP2 mask is hermetic. It does not let air go in and has a double filtration system: outwards and inwards”, Christian Curel – French Mask Maker Union chairman – said.

Invited on TF1 TV channel, GP Guylaine Ferré confirms: “The average surgical mask mostly protects the others. One wears it to avoid projections towards others. But the FFP2 extremely effectively protects on an individual basis”. The recommended utilization time for a FFP2 mask is bigger: eight hours instead of four for the surgical mask.

And yet, France is not deciding whether imposing FFP2: several experts and bodies consider wearing this facemask is only recommended for fragile people. This past December 8, the Scientific Committee said fragile people or non-vaccinated people could wear the FFP2 during the Holidays, without necessarily recommending it to others. As for the Haute Autorité de Santé, they encourage caregivers to wear it to “avoid standstill in some units that are fully essential”.

Many caregivers agree to say the FFP2 is not adapted to the general public: the size of it does not suit all shapes of faces, its waterproofness makes breathing harder. “The fear towards FFP2 masks is they are not easy to wear and hard to handle as it should be. […] A well-placed mask is better than a badly-worn FFP2”, virologist and Scientific Committee member Bruno Lina sumps up.

The price of FFP2 masks might also dissuade plenty of French from changing: allow about €12 for a box of 20 masks, namely six times more expensive than surgical masks.

Yet, for those who would like to get it, meet in pharmacies or online stores such as Amazon, or stores for specific medical items: FFP2 are harder to find in supermarkets. Careful though, make sure you buy masks given the CE, N95 or NF EN 149 certification.

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