Certain masks only permitted in public places from January 25

As of January 25, changes to the regulations requiring the use of medical-grade masks or FFP2 respirators in public places come into force. Public places include workplaces, public transport and commercial and retail locations.

Respirators are designed to protect the wearer from exposure to airborne particles and have a tight, sealed fit. Surgical masks are a barrier to splashes, droplets, and saliva and do not have as tight a fit.

According to advice from the European Commission:

"A medical face mask (also known as surgical or procedure mask) is a medical device covering the mouth, nose and chin ensuring a barrier that limits the transition of an infective agent between the hospital staff and the patient. They are used by healthcare workers to prevent large respiratory droplets and splashes from reaching the mouth and the nose of the wearer and help reduce and/or control at the source the spread of large respiratory droplets from the person wearing the face mask."

 

"Medical face masks should be distinguished from protective face masks or respirators (PPE), which are intended only to be worn by a person for protection against one or more risks to that person's health or safety, without a medical purpose, and do not fall under the definition of medical device. For further advice on the conformity assessment of these type of masks and other types of protective equipment, a questions and answers document has been published on the Commission web site.

In order for a respirator or medical mask to meet the new rules operating in Latvia from January 25, 2021, the packaging must contain certain information.

Medical masks

The following information must appear on the packaging of the medical mask: 

  • A CE marking;

  • the name or trade mark of the manufacturer;

  • model number or name;

  • mask type (category / class / model: I, II, IIR);

  • standard 14683: 2019;

  • the manufacturer's instructions for proper use of the medical mask.

Respirators

  • A 'CE' marking;

  • A four-digit number from the database of notified bodies of the European Union NANDO, for example, NB 0333 (French notified body "AFNOR Certification");

  • the name and address or trade mark of the manufacturer;

  • model number or name;

  • European standard EN 149 number and year of publication: EN 149: 2001 + A1: 2009 (single use);

  • for respirator class (FFP2 or FFP3) with additional indication: NR - for single use, R - for repeated use;

  • the period of validity;

  • the manufacturer's instructions for proper use of the respirator.

The switch to using these standardized masks marks a major shift compared to the early stages of the pandemic when the emphasis was placed upon protecting others by wearing any form of nose and mouth covering, including fabric masks and scarves.

However, it remains to be seen how readily the new rules are adopted by the public and how stringently they are checked. If previous patterns of use are any guide, it seems highly unlikely people will walk around with all the packaging from their facemasks to hand, and follow the rules on replacement of single-use masks to the letter.

Even the best-intentioned members of the public may not find sticking to the rules easy. In 2021 the Consumer Rights Protection Centre (PTAC) carried out monitoring by inspecting 764 sales outlets at approximately 70 merchants which showed that 37% of the 190 different models inspected did not meet the statutory requirements for reasons varying from not displaying the correct CE codes to only having Chinese standard markings that should not have been on sale in the EU.

During the monitoring performed by the PTAC, it was also revealed that store descriptions of the masks they are selling is often incorrect, making compliance even more difficult for consumers. For example, in some cases the description of a hygienic face mask states that it is an FFP2 mask, or a respirator is called a medical mask.

Face mask regulations
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