August 1, 2021

Corona: Federal government justifies the requirement to wear a mask outdoors

Germany Aerosols

Hardly any infections outdoors – the federal government still justifies the use of masks

In several German cities, a mask requirement was and still applies in some outdoor areas In several German cities, a mask requirement was and still applies in some outdoor areas

In several German cities, a mask requirement was and still applies in some outdoor areas

Source: dpa / Oliver Berg

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In a small question, FDP politicians around Wieland Schinnenburg want to know from the federal government how they justify the requirement to wear a mask outdoors and night exit restrictions. They are not satisfied with the answers.

She world has been in a state of emergency pandemic for more than 15 months. Scientific knowledge about the coronavirus, its spread, the danger it poses and the usefulness of control measures have changed again and again. What can be considered safe: SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted particularly frequently via aerosols. As a result, the risk of infection is significantly higher indoors than outdoors.

According to a position paper published in December 2020, the Society for Aerosol Research (GAeF) even assumes that “there are virtually no infections caused by aerosol particles” outdoors.

Reason enough for the FDP member of the Bundestag Wieland Schinnenburg and some colleagues in the parliamentary group to ask the federal government whether this assessment should not lead to changes in the corona policy. In a small question to Jens Spahn’s (CDU) Ministry of Health (BMG) he wanted to know what conclusions the government draws from the GAeF position paper. WELT has the answers.

Wieland Schinenburg

Wieland Schinnenburg, FDP

Source: pa / Geisler-Fotop / Frederic Kern / Geisler-Fotopress

Thomas Gebhart (CDU), Parliamentary State Secretary in the BMG, replied that the Federal Government assumed that if the distance below a minimum distance of 1.5 meters “there is also a risk of transmission outdoors”. In making this assessment, Gebhardt refers to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) with its risk assessment of the coronavirus.

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In addition, the aerosol excretion increases sharply when speaking, singing or laughing loudly. As a result, the risk “significantly” increases indoors even at greater distances. “In everyday life, masks can reduce the release of aerosols, but not always reliably protect against infection, because it is crucial that the mask is worn correctly,” Gebhart said in his answer. In order to reduce the number of infectious aerosols, “regular intensive ventilation” is also important.

Schinnenburg and his group colleagues also wanted to know why, despite the assessment by the GAeF, in many federal states a mask requirement applies outdoors even in places without large crowds and why meetings outdoors are prohibited for larger groups. In principle, the federal government agrees with Gebhart’s answer to the GAeF assessment: If the minimum distance is observed, the probability of transmission of Covid-19 via virus-containing particles is lower outdoors than indoors. “However,” it is stated, “(…) in direct and close contact, for example with children playing, there is a risk of transmission via droplets and respiratory secretions.” In addition, aerosols would occur during physical exertion and increased breathing, for example when shouting or shouting, “ to a greater extent “eliminated. That is why it is “important to wear masks”, especially in the event of closer contacts, according to the Federal Government.

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Schinnenburg also asked why there were some nocturnal curfews. “What is the risk of infection at night that is not there during the day?” He wanted to know. The aim was to control and promote compliance with the general contact rules with exit restrictions. “Nocturnal exit restrictions can mean that fewer private meetings and celebrations take place during which the risk of infection is increased, since people usually adhere less strictly to hygiene recommendations in a private context,” wrote Gebhart.

Schinnenburg complains to WELT that the federal government has not yet been able to prove the effectiveness of the night curfews. In his answer, Gebhart actually does not say whether private meetings in the evening hours have decreased. However, according to model studies based on radio cell-based mobility analyzes, the number of movements during the exit restrictions would have decreased.

Schinnenburg: “Creating incentives to stay outdoors”

In any case, Schinnenburg is not satisfied with Gebhart’s answers. “The risk of corona infection is drastically lower outdoors than indoors,” he told WELT. Nevertheless, the federal and state governments have jointly decided on “numerous measures that restrict being outdoors”. The FDP politician continues: “Instead of restricting citizens with questionable measures, the federal government should have created better incentives to stay outdoors.”

In his answer, Gebhart only said that the government provided information on its website “extensively (…) on the recommended infection protection measures”. This also includes the recommendation to “prefer to meet others outdoors”.

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That is not enough for Schinnenburg. Compared to WELT, he calls on the federal government around Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the federal states to “repeal ineffective measures such as the obligation to wear a mask in the open air or restrictions on people in the open air if the distance rule can be adhered to”.