Germany has announced plans to make face masks compulsory to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Bremen became the final federal region to back the measures, with its senate set to confirm the decision on April 24.
Face mask use will be compulsory on public transport throughout Germany, and nearly all states will also make face coverings mandatory when shopping.
Last week, when she announced the ease of lockdown measures, German Chancellor Angela Merkel strongly recommended the use of face masks.
Different European countries have issued different guidance on the use of face masks.
Austria made them compulsory when shopping at the start of this month.
On April 22, Switzerland confirmed it would not make its citizens wear masks as it loosened its restrictions.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has confirmed 145,694 cases and recorded 4,879 deaths in total.
April 22 data showed a second consecutive day that new infections rose, with 281 deaths compared with 194 reported on April 21. Johns Hopkins University in the US puts the number of German deaths at 5,117.
Germany’s federal vaccines institute approved clinical trials for a possible vaccine involving humans on April 22. About 200 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55 will be tested with variants of the drug, developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech.
Scientists at the University of Oxford are set to start trials on humans on April 23, the UK government says. Separate trials are also taking place in Seattle.
The new rules come into force in most German lands from April 27, once they pass in local legislatures. However, where face masks will be required differs from state.
All 16 lands will make facial coverings a necessity on public transport. However, in Berlin, it will not be compulsory to wear a mask when shopping.
This is also the case in the northern land of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: that land has announced a fine of €25 ($27) for anyone caught without one on public transport. Other states have yet to specify punishments.
Rhineland-Palatinate in the south-west says pupils will be given reusable masks as they slowly start to return to school at the beginning of May, while in Bavaria masks are mandatory for everyone aged seven and over from April 27.
Even the type of mask is not consistently specified. PM Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg has said medical masks should be reserved for health workers, while scarves or cloth covers would be sufficient for people on the street.
Many land leaders had previously questioned the need to impose the measures on residents.
Thuringia’s premier, Bodo Ramelow, said that as neighboring lands Bavaria and Saxony had announced measures, his eastern state had decided to follow suit.
Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization (WHO) has consistently said only the ill and those caring for the ill need to wear masks.
Research suggests face masks are not as effective as frequent hand washing with soap and water, and can give users false confidence.
A number of European countries are starting to make masks compulsory on public transport and in shops, including Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia.