clearn.png
Tuesday January 18th, 2022 5:59AM

Mask rules get tighter in Europe in winter's COVID-19 wave

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ROME (AP) — To mask or not to mask is a question Italy settled early in the COVID-19 outbreak with a vigorous “yes." Now the onetime epicenter of the pandemic in Europe hopes even stricter mask rules will help it beat the latest infection surge.

Other countries are taking similar action as the more transmissible — yet, apparently, less virulent — omicron variant spreads through the continent.

With intensive care units in Italy's hospitals rapidly filling with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, the government announced on Christmas Eve that FFP2 masks — which offer users more protection than cloth or surgical masks — must be worn on public transport, including planes, trains, ferries and subways.

That's even though all passengers in Italy, as of this week, must be vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19. FFP2s also must now be worn at theaters, cinemas and sports events, indoors or out, and can't be removed even for their wearers to eat or drink.

Italy reintroduced an outdoor mask mandate. It had never lifted its indoor mandate — even when infections sharply dropped in the summer.

On a chilly morning in Rome this week, Lillo D’Amico, 84, sported a wool cap and white FFP2 as he bought a newspaper at his neighborhood newsstand.

“(Masks) cost little money, they cost you a small sacrifice,” he said. "When you do the math, it costs far less than hospitalization.”

When he sees someone from the unmasked minority walking by, he keeps a distance. “They see (masks) as an affront to their freedom,’’ D’Amico said, shrugging.

Spain reinstated its outdoor mask rule on Christmas Eve. After the 14-day contagion rate soared to 2,722 new infections per 100,000 people by the end of last week — from 40 per 100,000 in mid-October — Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was asked whether the outdoor mask mandate was helping.

“Of course, it is. It’s not me saying it. It’s science itself saying it because (it's) a virus that is contracted when one exhales,’’ Sanchez said.

Portugal brought masks back at the end of November, after having largely dropped the requirement when it hit its goal of vaccinating 86% of the population.

Greece has also restored its outdoor mask mandate, while requiring an FFP2 or double surgical mask on public transport and in indoor public spaces.

This week, the Dutch government’s outbreak management team recommended a mask mandate for people over age 13 in busy public indoor areas such as restaurants, museums and theaters, and for spectators at indoor sports events. Those places are currently closed under a lockdown until at least Jan. 14.

In France, the outdoor mask mandate was partially reinstated in December in many cities, including Paris. The age for children to start wearing masks in public places was lowered to 6 from 11.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer announced last week that people must wear FFP2 masks outdoors if they can’t keep at least two meters (6.5 feet) apart.

In Italy, with more than 2 million people currently positive for the virus in a nation of 60 million and workplace absences curtailing train and bus runs, the government also sees masks as a way to let society more fully function.

People with booster shots or recent second vaccine doses can now avoid quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person if they wear a FFP2 mask for 10 days.

The government has ordered shops to make FFP masks available for 75 euro cents ($0.85). In the pandemic's first year, FFP2s cost up to 10 euros ($11.50) — whenever they could be found.

Italians wear them in a palette of colors. The father of a baby baptized this week by Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel wore one in burgundy, with matching tie and jacket pocket square. But the pontiff, who has practically shunned a mask in public, didn't wear one.

On Monday, Vatican City State mandated FFP2s in all indoor places. The tiny, walled independent state across the Tiber from the heart of Rome also stipulated that Vatican employees can go to work without quarantining after coming into contact with someone testing positive if, in addition to being fully vaccinated or having received a booster shot, they wear FFP2s.

Francis did appear to be wearing a FFP2 when, startling shoppers in Rome on Tuesday evening, he emerged from a music store near the Pantheon before being driven back to the Vatican.

In Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has focused on vaccination, masks have never been required outdoors.

This month, though, the government said secondary school students should wear face coverings in class. But Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that rule wouldn’t apply “for a day longer than necessary.”

When the British government lifted pandemic restrictions in July 2021, turning mask-wearing from a requirement to a suggestion, mask use fell markedly.

Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Bologna-based GIMBE foundation, which monitors health care in Italy, says Britain points to what can happen when measures like mask-wearing aren’t valued.

“The situation in the U.K, showed that use of vaccination alone wasn’t enough” to get ahead of the pandemic, even though Britain was one of the first countries to begin vaccination, he said in a video interview.

___

Aritz Parra in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Greece, Jill Lawless in London, Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Mike Corder in The Hague and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Mask rules get tighter in Europe in winter's COVID-19 wave
Italy, Spain and other European countries are reinstating or stiffening mask mandates as their hospitals struggle with mounting numbers of COVID-19 patients
8:15AM ( 10 minutes ago )
UK leader's office apologizes for party before royal funeral
Boris Johnson’s office has apologized to the royal family for a lockdown-breaching staff parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philips funeral
8:10AM ( 15 minutes ago )
In southern Dutch town, cafes open in lockdown protest
Shops, bars and restaurants in a southern Dutch town have opened in a protest action that underscored growing anger at weeks of coronavirus lockdown measures
8:09AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Cyberattack in Ukraine targets government websites
Ukrainian officials say a huge cyberattack has left a number of government websites temporarily unavailable
7:34AM ( 52 minutes ago )
Double-fault: Visa revoked again, Djokovic faces deportation
Tennis star Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time
7:30AM ( 56 minutes ago )
Ukraine's government websites targeted in a hacking attack
Ukrainian officials and media reports say a number of government websites in Ukraine are down after a massive hacking attack
6:21AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
N. Korea fires likely missile in 3rd launch this month
Officials in South Korea and Japan say North Korea has fired at least one possible ballistic missile in its third weapons launch this month, an apparent reprisal for fresh sanctions imposed by the Biden administration for its continuing test launches
1:37AM ( 6 hours ago )
In Washington, a day of snapshots of divisions and futility
Thursday saw a closed-door huddle by an embattled President Joe Biden with his own party’s senators, apparently for naught
1:34AM ( 6 hours ago )
Biden all but concedes defeat on voting, election bills
President Joe Biden is all but conceding defeat for this year on the Democrats' big elections and voting rights legislation
1:24AM ( 7 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Hong Kong bans transit flights from over 150 countries
Hong Kong International Airport is banning transit passengers from 150 countries and territories starting Sunday, tightening stringent travel controls in an effort to stem the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant
6:47AM ( 1 hour ago )
World shares track Wall Street retreat, US futures edge up
Shares have slipped in Europe and Asia after a retreat on Wall Street that left the Nasdaq composite down 2.5%
4:24AM ( 4 hours ago )
Asian shares skid, tracking Wall Street retreat
Asian shares are lower after a retreat on Wall Street that left the Nasdaq composite down 2.5%
12:02AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business
Biden nominates 3 to Fed board, including first Black woman
President Joe Biden will nominate three people to the Senate for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors
9:17PM ( 11 hours ago )
Businesses react to ruling against Biden vaccine mandate
For big companies across the country, it's now up to them to decide whether to require employees to get vaccinated
8:39PM ( 11 hours ago )
Mexico's president wants Mexicans to buy Citigroup unit
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he hopes Mexican investors buy the local subsidiary of Citigroup
5:44PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
China faces omicron test weeks ahead of Beijing Olympics
Most access to a major city adjacent to Beijing was suspended Thursday as China tried to contain an outbreak of a highly contagious coronavirus variant
8:59AM ( 23 hours ago )
Taiwan chipmaker TSMC says quarterly profit $6 billion
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the biggest contract manufacturer of processor chips, says its quarterly profit rose 16.4% over a year earlier to $6 billion amid surging demand for chips for smartphones and other electronics
2:00AM ( 1 day ago )
Biogen tumbles after Medicare lays out Aduhelm coverage plan
Shares of Biogen have tumbled a day after regulators slapped strict limitations on coverage the drugmaker’s new Alzheimer’s disease treatment
5:05PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Health Care
UK leader's office apologizes for party before royal funeral
Boris Johnson’s office has apologized to the royal family for a lockdown-breaching staff parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philips funeral
8:10AM ( 15 minutes ago )
In southern Dutch town, cafes open in lockdown protest
Shops, bars and restaurants in a southern Dutch town have opened in a protest action that underscored growing anger at weeks of coronavirus lockdown measures
8:09AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Djokovic ruling fits with Australia's tough immigration line
To people watching from afar, the treatment of tennis star Novak Djokovic by Australian immigration officials might have seemed harsh
8:01AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Elephants dying from eating plastic waste in Sri Lankan dump
Conservationists and veterinarians are warning that plastic waste in an open landfill in eastern Sri Lanka is killing elephants, after two more were found dead over the weekend
7:45AM ( 40 minutes ago )
JPMorgan 4Q earnings fall 14%, but 2021 profit sets record
JPMorgan Chase says fourth-quarter profits fell 14% from a year earlier, due to a weaker performance from its trading desk and higher compensation expenses for employees
7:45AM ( 41 minutes ago )