Masks, social distancing, barrier gestures: update on the latest recommendations

FOCUS – With the arrival of more contagious “variants” of Covid-19, the authorities have multiplied their messages of caution, at the risk of some confusion.

We had ended up getting used to it. Over the confinements and curfews, these somewhat barbaric words of “barrier gestures” and of “social distancing», Which seemed so abstract last March, have become routine in everyday life.

No need to wonder whether or not to wear the mask: we wear it, that’s how it is. No need to estimate the distance that separates us from our neighbor, the regulatory meter has become commonplace. Not without sadness, these “braking measuresHave become second nature, or almost.

However, it didn’t take much for the confusion to once again take hold. While the Hexagon has seen arriving on its soil “mutants“Sars-CoV-19, coming in particular from England and South Africa, the political or scientific authorities have, last week, multiplied the messages of caution, in the form of new recommendations which slightly abuse the acquired automatisms. The underlying idea is however quite simple: the English and South African variants being characterized by a higher contagiousness, it would be necessary to adapt the braking measures accordingly. But in practice, what does that give?

Avoid category 2 masks?

To date, the executive does not recommend wearing FFP2 masks, still reserved for caregivers. This mask is the one that guarantees the highest degree of protection since it does not only prevent contaminating others, but also allows you to protect yourself from them. Error on this side of the Vosges, truth beyond … In the German Land of Bavaria, the FFP2 mask is now compulsory in closed places, including transport and shops, while at the federal level, only the medical mask ( FFP2 or surgical) is. Neighboring Austria chose this Monday to follow the Bavarian example.

So what about in France? The confusion arose from a new recommendation from the High Council for Public Health (HCSP) which now recommends favoring so-called masks “category 1“And avoid the masks of”category 2“. Except that we can assume, without risking too much of a mistake, that these categories are likely to be beyond the comprehension of many … Quid artisanal masks hastily made during the first confinement, washable industrial fabric masks, disposable surgical masks and FFP2: where does the cleaver fall between the first category and the second?

From the standards developed by AFNOR, they depend on the filtration capacity (90% of 3 micron particles for category 1, 70% for 2). In practice, surgical masks and FFP2 masks are generally category 1 masks, while “Almost all industrial masks“In fabric are also, said the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, last week, trying to provide some clarification on the subject. In summary, we must therefore rather avoid masks that we would have sewn ourselves and privilege others, hoping if we wear an industrial fabric mask that it is not one of the rare category 2. In in doubt, we will then favor a surgical mask.

Except that another scientific authority, the National Academy of Medicine has expressed its skepticism about these new recommendations of the HCSP. “The effectiveness of ‘general public’ masks has never been faulted when they are worn correctly. Such a change in the recommendations concerning a practice with which the entire population had succeeded in familiarizing themselves risks creating incomprehension and rekindling doubts about the validity of the official recommendations.“, Estimated the organization. Difficult, therefore, to navigate. We are indeed witnessing a new cacophony around the question of masks, which we thought was closed.

Two-meter social distancing?

And masks are not the only subject of debate. The HCSP also advocates reducing social distancing from one meter to two. For once, the advice is clear, but its implementation is much less. Can we stand two meters from each other in the metro, on a bus or in a supermarket? The thing is not obvious, far from it. This is what the National Academy of Medicine replied, again expressing its skepticism. According to her, this is a “proposition defensible in theory but inapplicable in practice“. Even in the face of variants, the Academy therefore recommends “not to modify the barrier gestures as they have been defined and improved for several months“.

Be silent in the metro?

Except that she took the opportunity to propose a new rule, hitherto little heard: avoid talking and telephoning in public transport, even if distancing and wearing a mask are respected.

In short, the least that can be said is that these new recommendations still lack clarity. Avoiding homemade masks is a proposal rejected by the Academy of Medicine, which asks not to change the rules of social distancing, but at the same time it contributes to the confusion by asking to be silent in certain places, which did not never clearly requested from the French.


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