Face mask shortage being countered in Switzerland

A therapist receives boxes of facial masks at the canton of Geneva's distribution centre on Monday 27 April Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Around 35 million face masks were distributed across Switzerland by the end of April, the government’s top coronavirus pandemic officials have said, with more now available to the general public.

This content was published on May 1, 2020 - 17:27

In all, 12 million of the masks went to retail outlets and the rest to the cantons, said brigadier Markus Näf, in charge of procurement at the defence ministry, at a media conference on Friday.

Face masks have been on sale in supermarkets like Migros, Volg and Coop since MondayExternal link.

Näf said Switzerland had an additional 20 million masks in stock and the country was waiting for a further delivery which coming in on six airplanes.

Cloth masks were also now available to the public, as EMPA , the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, had published recommended specificationsExternal link from the National COVID-19 Science Task Force for these items, the official added. Several Swiss companies are now producing these types of masks. The price of masks has also fallen by two-thirds over the last weeks, commented Näf.

+ Coronavirus: the current situation in Switzerland


Like many countries, Switzerland had been facing shortage of face masks during the pandemic, replying on international imports to fill the gap.  

+ How Switzerland was caught napping over masks provision

+ Swiss researchers join forces to prevent mask shortages

The country does not recommend the general wearing of masks for healthy members of the public, a move which continues to generate a lot of public debate. But officials say they may be warranted on public transport during rush hour traffic or similar settings in which socially distancing is difficult to maintain. In response to a question about masks and children, on Friday top health official Daniel Koch said that masks were only practical if someone could take them on and off independently and if they did not interfere with a person’s breathing.

+ Face masks advised on crowded trains and buses

Although face mask wearing in public is not so common in Switzerland – apart from in the heavily affected canton of Ticino where according to a recent survey half the population sometimes wears a mask out and about – there seems to be widespread support for the practice. A separate survey published on April 20 suggested that 60% of respondents were in favour of a face mask regime in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19.

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