"I'm fully aware that mask wearing is something alien to our culture," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday after announcing that face masks will be compulsory for people visiting supermarkets and other stores. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have also made mask-wearing in public, formerly unusual in Europe, mandatory to fight the spread of COVID-19, the Financial Times reports. Kurz said millions of free face masks will be handed out at the entrances of supermarkets this week. He said the move—a "learning phase" ahead of making masks mandatory in more situations—is a necessary step "so that we can quickly return to normalcy and a functioning economy."
Authorities in Germany say they are also considering making the wearing of face masks in public mandatory before they ease any lockdown restrictions. In the Czech Republic, citizens are making and distributing homemade masks, reports the Guardian. The World Health Organization has said masks are only necessary for infected people and health workers, though authorities have noted that places like Hong Kong, where almost everybody started wearing masks in public as soon as the outbreak began, managed to successfully limit the spread of the coronavirus, reports the New York Times. The WHO advice is believed to be at least partially aimed at stopping people from hoarding masks, limiting the supply available to health care workers, the FT reports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)