Taking Peter Altmaier’s word will make things difficult. Very difficult indeed. While a mask requirement is at least considered in some cities and federal states and has already been decided in some, the Federal Minister of Economics initially puts a huge number before all further-reaching ideas. In an interview with the Picture on Sunday Altmaier said: “”If we want everyone in Germany to be able to work, shop and ride a bus with a face mask, we need between eight and twelve billion masks a year.”
That is an enormous number. Especially if you compare it to a second one. Altmaier also said that the federal government’s goal was “to be able to produce millions of surgical masks and mouthguards in Germany in the second half of summer”. Since almost all countries currently want to buy masks, this can only mean that the gap between demand and supply remains very large.
This also best explains why the federal government and some state governments have not yet introduced a mask requirement. The Chancellor and her ministers only recommend wearing masks. Angela Merkel does not want to force the population to do so if the government and business cannot provide enough masks for everyone, especially not for the staff in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and in nursing.
Some federal states and cities no longer want to be put off by this. Wolfsburg decided at the weekend to introduce a mandatory mask from Monday. Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania had already decided that before. In Saxony, the mask requirement applies from Monday on public buses and trains as well as when shopping. It will apply in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania from April 27th.
The citizens would not have to wear perfect medical protective masks, said Mecklenburg-West Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) that a cloth could be enough. Her Saxon colleague Michael Kretschmer (CDU) said no different. The easing planned for Saxony, particularly with regard to the exit restrictions, makes a mask requirement a “reasonable instrument” so as not to endanger people too much. That is “the right answer”. In contrast to other federal states, Saxony also allows services again, but with a maximum of 15 people.
In Wolfsburg, the mask requirement applies in shops, in public buildings, medical practices, medical facilities and in buses, as the municipality announced. With a transition period of one week, it will remain in effect until May 6th. Children under the age of six are exempt. Mayor Klaus Mohrs (SPD) said that even if the first shops are likely to open again, the risk of the coronavirus is far from being stopped and overcome. ”
In view of these developments, Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) anticipates that there will soon be a mask requirement, at least in local public transport. “I am convinced that everyday protective masks will soon become part of our public life and may soon become mandatory, for example in local public transport,” said Weil der Hannoversche Allgemeine Newspaper. But they should also be available. Until then, said Weil, more cautiously than his colleagues, the state could not force its citizens to do so.
A sentence that Peter Altmaier is likely to share. He confessed that he had to “get even better” when wearing it over the weekend. After all, he always keeps enough distance and always shops later in the evening. In the long run, however, this will hardly be the solution.