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Wearing masks on public transport and in shops is now mandatory in Germany and Austria, and most European countries recommend at least wearing face masks for all public areas outside of buildings. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was an extreme shortage of face masks. This has now been fixed and face masks are now more readily available. However, that does not mean that all masks provide effective protection against the virus.


Face masks, combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus. People have been urged to start wearing do-it-yourself (DIY) cloth masks, or “fashion masks”, to protect themselves and others from the virus. However, cloth masks do not protect against COVID-19 as well as surgical masks. 

Cloth masks are more environmentally friendly, but they are not liquid-tight because the cloth is often porous and cannot keep droplets out. Most form gaps near the nose, cheeks, and jaw where tiny droplets can be breathed in. After 2-4 hours of wearing cloth masks, the mask becomes very warm, damp, and wet, creating the best environment for bacteria to grow, which can do more harm than good.


A type IIR surgical mask, also known as a medical mask, is liquid-tight and protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes, and sprays that may contain germs. Type IIR masks also filter large particles out of the air. Surgical masks can protect others by reducing exposure to the saliva and respiratory secretions of the mask wearer. 

Surgical face masks are made of a 3-layer breathable design. They are tested in the direction of exhalation (from the inside to the outside), taking into account the efficiency of bacterial filtration. You need to filter 99% of the bacteria to be considered liquid tight. 

Type IIR face masks are more expensive than other, lower classes of disposable masks, but for good reason. To be sold in the European market, all Type IIR masks must be CE marked. However, there are only a limited number of factories that offer Type IIR masks, and even fewer factories have CE certification.  


The main difference lies in the certification and the effectiveness of the masks, which also increases the price.