French Doctors Warn Fabric Masks May Not Protect From The New COVID Variants

The French government has warned that cloth face masks may not protect people from new coronavirus variants. 

With two new strains of Covid-19, from the UK and South Africa, confirmed to be in France, the government has begun to amend its guidance on mask-wearing.

Although not formally published, France’s health advisory council, Haute Conseil de la Santé Publique, has said homemade cloth masks may not be the safest option.

Instead, people should stick to wearing professionally-made masks such as disposable surgical masks, or FFP2 filer masks of the kind that have become mandatory in some public places in Germany.

Didier Lepelletier, co-president of the Covid-19 working group of the HCPS, told BFMTV: ‘When it comes to the penetration of certain new variants… which are more contagious… the question is raised of what kind of mask to recommend to the general public.’

He went on to explain that while cloth masks are preferred by people because they can be re-used, they did not guarantee an appropriate level of protection against the new Covid variants.

The new advice was echoed by France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran who said that artisan face coverings made at home do not necessarily provide the necessary guarantees that single-use ones do.

One of the main problems identified with homemade cloth masks is that they have not been officially checked and so their level of protection could vary depending on the fabric, thickness and craftsmanship used.

At present, the new guidance on cloth masks is advice rather than a rule in France.

However, face coverings are currently compulsory in all indoor public places in France as well as on the streets of around 400 towns and cities.

The French government has said that only face masks that fully cover a person’s nose and mouth should be worn and people caught wearing masks incorrectly or not at all will be subject to a €135 fine.

Types of masks the public have been advised to use are split into two different categories, Category 1 and Category 2.

Category 1 masks are those that filter 90 percent of particles and include single-use surgical masks, FFP2 filter masks, and specific fabric that meet the required specifications.

While Category 2 masks are those that filter 70 percent of particles and were advised to the public to be worn last spring.

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