Coronavirus: Masks

In Switzerland it’s compulsory to wear a mask in many different places. The following general rule applies: wear a mask if you’re not at home and can’t distance from other people at all times. The mask should always cover your nose and mouth.

Different types of mask

There are various masks and face coverings on the market. Below you’ll find information on which type of mask is suitable for which situation and on the quality requirements that individual masks must meet.


Medical face mask/surgical mask (sometimes with a clear window)

Image medical face mask

Make sure you use surgical masks meeting the following requirements:

  • Standard: EN 14683
  • Information on the packaging: CE marking and information on the manufacturer, including address

There are three types of EN 14683 face mask with different levels of filter efficiency (types I, II and IIR). For the everyday use we recommend all types.

Surgical masks, when used correctly, primarily protect other people from infection (protecting others). These types of mask also protect wearers themselves to a certain extent (protecting yourself). So if you have symptoms of an acute respiratory disease, wear a surgical mask to protect your fellow human beings.


Community mask (industrially manufactured textile mask; sometimes with a clear window)

Image community mask

There is no legally binding quality standard for community masks. Make sure to use community masks that bear a reference to SNR 30000 from the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV).

Community masks with reference to SNR 30000 should meet the Science Task Force’s minimum requirements. The efficacy of this kind of community mask is comparable with the efficacy of surgical masks (see above). You will find the latest recommendation, including detailed information on the requirements, on the Science Task Force website.

Community masks are allowed to bear a label (e.g. TESTEX or SQTS (in German)) if they have been tested for the minimum requirements of the Science Task Force.

Community masks, when used correctly, primarily protect other people from infection. This type of mask also protects the person wearing it to a certain extent. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care of community masks.

Neck gaiters worn for skiing, for example, also count as community masks and should meet the recommendations of the Science Task Force.


Filtering face piece (FFP) or FFP2/FFP3 mask

Image filtering face piece (FFP)

(In everyday life these are often also referred to as N95 or KN95 masks)

Filtering face piece masks are designed to protect the person wearing them from aerosols and particulate in the course of certain kinds of work. In medical settings they are recommended only for specific especially risky procedures.

Filtering face piece masks such as FFP2 masks work reliably and provide the desired protection only if the mask is optimally adjusted to the shape of the face and is worn and handled correctly. This means that a filtering face piece mask must always fit the face snugly. There must be no gap between the mask and the skin of the face. This is not possible, for example, for people with beards. Since a filtering face piece mask must fit snugly, the wearer’s breathing is impaired. For this reason regular breaks are needed while wearing one.

In summary, this means that in everyday situations filtering face piece masks do not necessarily provide better protection than surgical (medical face masks) or community masks. Filtering face piece masks are therefore not necessary for private use. Even in the current situation where the new virus variants are spreading, filtering face piece masks are not necessary in private use. If, despite this, you wear a filtering face piece mask on an everyday basis and want to ensure you are protected as well as possible, make absolutely sure to take the precautionary measures described above when putting on and wearing the mask. In particular, make sure the mask fits snugly against the skin of your face.

Masks with valves are also available on the market. We expressly do not recommend these masks for everyday use, as they do not filter on exhalation (breathing out) and tend to facilitate the spread of the virus.

General tip: Our assessments of filtering face piece masks are based on the current state of knowledge. We will adapt these assessments if necessary on the basis of the development of the situation or new scientific findings.  


Other types of face masks (homemade textile face mask, DIY face mask, etc.)

Image homemade textile mask

There is no legally binding quality standard for these masks. This means that the quality and the protection provided by homemade masks can differ widely. For this reason we cannot make any generally valid statement about the protection they provide.

However, the following apply across the board: To sufficiently protect the wearer, homemade masks must have the same properties as industrially manufactured community masks. In particular, masks must be well fitted to the face and consist of two, preferably three, layers of tightly woven fabric.


Scarf

Image scarf

Covering your face with a scarf or cloth does not protect you sufficiently from becoming infected and is of only limited use in protecting others. A scarf or cloth should not be used instead of a mask.


Clear face protection

There are also clear masks and face coverings. We do not recommend most of these products for everyday use – only for certain exceptional situations.

Mask with a clear window

Image mask with a clear window

You may wear a mask with a clear window, provided that it meets the same standards as medical/surgical or community masks (see above).


Visor (shield)

Image visor

Visors (shields) may not be used as a substitute for a mask. Visors are attached loosely at the forehead. They protect the eyes from possible droplet infection, but they do not rule out infection via the mouth and nose. They only serve as an additional protective measure, and can be worn in the following exceptional situations:


Clear plastic face covering

Image clear plastic face covering

Clear plastic face coverings are also available on the market. They have a similar shape to a mask, covering the nose and mouth, fitting the sides of the face closely and extending to below the chin. Below the chin the covering is open to allow exhaled air to escape. We recommend using a clear face covering only in the following exceptional situation:


Clear plastic shield

Image clear plastic shield

Clear plastic shields attached around the chin are designed to protect from saliva. But they don’t provide protection from infection via the air people breathe in and out. For this reason, plastic shields of this sort may not be used as a substitute for a mask.


You will find further information from Swissmedic and the Science Task Force in the Links tab.  

Wearing a mask correctly

Please note the following information about using masks properly:

  • Use: The mask needs to cover both your nose and mouth. Wash your hands before putting on and taking off the mask, or use hand sanitiser. Touch the mask as little as possible. Community masks can be used several times, as they can be washed. Disposable face masks (surgical masks) should be used only once.
  • Repeat use: If you use a mask several times – for example because you have only worn it for a short period – hand hygiene and ensuring the correct use and storage of the mask are important: make sure to wash or disinfect your hands before putting the mask on and taking it off and touch the mask as little as possible. Important: if you have an acute respiratory disease, you should use a disposable face mask and definitely only use it once.
  • Storage in the case of repeated use: If possible, after use, hang your mask on a hook so that it does not come into contact with any other objects. If this is not possible, keep it in a paper bag, an envelope or cloth pouch so that you can transport it without it touching other objects in your bag. This will prevent viruses that may be present from being passed on. Plastic bags and covers are not suitable for storage purposes, as they are not permeable to air and the masks do not dry inside them. The viruses also live longer on plastic than they do on paper.
  • Washing: Disposable face masks (surgical masks) cannot be washed. Community masks can be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Duration: You can wear a disposable face mask for up to four hours. Take note of how damp it gets – the damper the mask, the less effective it is at protecting you and others. With community masks, take note of the information provided by the manufacturer.
  • Disposal: Masks can be disposed of as usual household waste. Make sure that a used mask does not come into contact with anything other than other waste products. Close the bin bag securely. If you are not at home, you can dispose of a used mask in a public waste bin. Wash or disinfect your hands after touching a used mask.
  • People with beards: Except for filtering face piece masks (see above), it makes no difference if you have a beard or not. It is just important to ensure that the mask covers both your nose and your mouth.

Buying masks

Surgical and textile masks can be bought in shops or online. If buying a textile mask, make sure that it meets the recommendation of the Science Task Force. Detailed information on the different types of mask and the requirements they must meet can be found in the section Different types of mask.

Medical insurers do not cover the cost of masks. If you cannot afford to buy masks, please contact your local social services.

When to wear a mask

The mask-wearing requirement applies all over Switzerland in many indoor spaces of publicly accessible establishments and businesses and thus in various situations. In the Wearing of masks compulsory throughout Switzerland section you will find information on this.

The general recommendation, even where masks are not prescribed, is to always wear a mask if you are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from other people, and where no physical barrier such as a partition is in place. Mask-wearing is particularly important in enclosed and poorly-ventilated spaces. You should also wear a mask, for example, during car journeys with other people.

Wearing a mask in everyday life primarily protects other people. A person infected with the coronavirus may be infectious even if they have no symptoms. If everyone in a crowded place wears a mask, then everyone is protected. Although wearing a mask does not ensure complete protection against the coronavirus, it can help prevent it from spreading so quickly.

Wearing of masks compulsory throughout Switzerland

Below you will find a list of where and in what situations you must wear a mask. In addition to the national rules, the cantons can also require the wearing of masks in further areas and situations (for example compulsory and upper secondary schools). For this reason you must always follow the cantonal rules.

Exemptions from the requirement to wear a mask

Children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask (cantonal exemptions may apply).

For residents of retirement and care homes the management of the home, in consultation with the relevant cantonal office, can lift the requirement to wear masks in publicly accessible areas of the institution. The management of the home can do this in the following cases:

  • For fully vaccinated residents for 12 months from their second vaccination.
  • For residents who have recovered from a proven COVID-19 infection for six months from the 11th day after their infection was confirmed.

General exemptions from the requirement to wear a mask. In these cases, you do not have to wear a mask (regardless of your age).

  • You can prove that you are unable to wear a mask for a specific reason. Such reasons include, for example, facial injuries, shortness of breath, conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, anxiety when wearing a mask and disabilities that make wearing a mask intolerable or impossible. All medical grounds must be substantiated with a certificate from a doctor or psychotherapist. You will find detailed information in the factsheet from the FBED and FOPH on mask dispensing for certain people with disabilities in the Documents tab.
  • You are receiving a medical or cosmetic service for your face.
  • You work at a supplementary childcare facility such as a child daycare centre and wearing a mask makes it significantly more difficult to look after the children. These situations are governed in the relevant set of precautionary measures.
  • You are appearing at an event or establishment, for example as a speaker
  • You are engaging in a sporting or cultural activity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Further information

You will find more information on the topic under the following links:  

Further information

Protect yourself and others

Rules on hygiene and social distancing: get vaccinated, keep your distance, wash your hands, cough/sneeze into a paper tissue/the crook of your arm, stay at home if you experience symptoms, recommendations on wearing masks and working from home

Measures and ordinances

Measures, easing of measures, conditions for reopening, permitted events or activities, still prohibited, criminal provisions, explanations

Last modification 13.09.2021

Top of page

Contact

Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Infoline Coronavirus
Tel. +41 58 463 00 00

Print contact

https://www.bag.admin.ch/content/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/masken.html