Swedish Public Health Agency: Wear medical masks on public transport

A man wears the more protective FFP2 face mask on German public transport. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP
As some countries across Europe tighten up their requirements for face masks, the Swedish Public Health Agency does not currently recommend masks outside rush hour on public transport – but says that when you do wear a mask, a medical mask is better than a cloth one.

“The recommendations that we have for the public in the crowded hours for public transportation, it has been only medical masks and not cloth masks,” said the Public Health Agency's Karin Tegmark Wisell in response to a question from The Local, asking the agency's stance on the recently changed recommendations in other European countries. 

On its website, the agency says face masks, if used, should be “quality-assured, ie CE-marked, disposable face masks that meet the requirements of the standard SS-EN14683: 2019”.

The comments come after several other countries in Europe changed their recommendations around face masks to mandate only the masks that offer the highest level of protection.

In France, masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces in France, as well as in the street in 400 towns and cities. There is no law on what kind of mask should be worn, but French public health advice is to wear a Category 1 mask, which filter more than 90 percent of particles. This includes the FFP2 filter masks, the blue single-use surgical masks and certain types of fabric masks that meet specifications. 

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Germany and Austria recently made FFP2 masks compulsory in public transport and in Switzerland, the federal government 'recommends against' self-made and uncertified masks, but has issued no ban.

In Sweden, face masks are only recommended for use by the public on public transport during rush hour (7-9am and 4-6pm), and otherwise their use is not recommended outside the medical and care sectors due to concerns this would lead to relaxation of more crucial measures like distancing and working from home.

The Local's second question related to comments from the Public Health Agency that the coronavirus is primarily spreading in private homes and workplaces. When we asked where this data comes from, Tegmark Wisell explained that it is based on infected individuals' own assessments during contact tracing.

“During the fall we've had reports from the regions where they have followed the place where you believe you have contracted the disease and from these reports we see that those are the areas where most people believe they have contracted the disease,” she responded.

We asked if there was any data on the type of workplaces where people reported being infected – for example, whether this was primarily happening to people in key worker roles such as in hospitals, schools and public transport or if the virus was also spreading at workplaces where employees should be working from home. 

“From the episodical reports we have, it could be all sorts of workplaces,” Tegmark Wisell said. “Therefore we recommend that people that can work from home shall do so, and people that cannot work from home, there everyone has to take responsibility to ensure the workplace is as safe as it can possibly be.”


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