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Coronavirus: German city makes it obligatory to wear masks

The city of Jena in eastern Germany has decided to make people wear face masks when shopping or traveling on public transport, stepping up efforts to curb coronavirus contagion.

Jena becomes the first city in the country to introduce the measure.

States around Germany haven been heeding directive from the government to shut down public places like schools, bars, clubs, and restaurants in an effort to curb new infections per the virus.

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The city of Jena decided to follow the example of Austria, which on Monday said it was requiring shoppers to wear masks in supermarkets.

The Czech Republic now requires everyone to wear masks when in public.

“Wearing mouth and nose protection in shops in Jena, on public transport and buildings with public traffic is compulsory,” Jena City Hall said in a statement.

The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said he saw no reason to oblige people to wear masks, “but I recognise the growing willingness of people to wear masks out of solidarity for other people”.

There’s a worldwide shortage of masks that requires people to fashion their own or use towels, scarves or cloths to be wrapped around people’s mouths and noses.

It is becoming easier to sew your own mask.

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Winfried Kretschmann, the premier of Baden-Württemberg, which is one of the worst-hit states in Germany, said he supported the idea of home-sewn masks, and would raise the subject at a meeting of state leaders with Angela Merkel.

“At the very least they serve as spit protectors, reducing the risk of infecting fellow citizens through passing on the droplets,” he said.

The head of the German association of supermarkets, Nils Busch-Petersen, appealed to shoppers to wear masks, or some form of mouth and nose protection, for the safety of workers, who he said needed to know that shoppers were making an effort to keep them safe.

German supermarkets have already taken measures such as putting cashiers behind perspex windows and employing a person at the entrance to disinfect every supermarket trolley.

Germany now has 58,860 active cases for the virus, 948 deaths and 19,175 recoveries.