The top doctor in the Swiss mountain region that includes St. Moritz and Davos told restaurants on Tuesday not to rely on plastic visors to protect their employees from COVID-19 infections, saying they “create a false sense of security”.
The warning, from the Grisons canton bordering Italy and Austria, raises questions about the reopening strategies of some restaurants, hotels and other tourist-dependent businesses.
In Germany some states allow visors for service workers, while others require face masks. Swiss restaurants don’t require all workers to wear protective facial coverings, though some have adopted them.
The Grisons cantonal doctor, Marina Jamnicki, said face masks for restaurant staff who cannot keep 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) distance from others were a better solution than transparent plastic shields secured by a headband.
“An analysis of the cases and the path in which the disease spread shows plastic visors being used in gastronomy don’t offer sufficient protection,” her office said. “People who wore visors got infected.”
The Swiss Federal Health Office did not return queries about potential action, given Jamnicki’s warning.
Marc Tischhauser, director of the Grisons restaurant industry association, told Reuters the doctor’s warning was a reminder that visors play a “complementary role” in protecting against COVID-19 infections, and that proper social distancing and face masks are also necessary to be effective.
The World Health Organization last month updated guidance urging face masks be worn in public, while conceding only observational evidence, not scientific studies, showed they helped contain the new coronavirus’s spread.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health said masks are better because they “slow the speed of breath or the dispersion of spit and slime drops” while visors “just capture drops that land on the screen”.
Germany’s 16 states have final say in what to require.
In Hessen, where Frankfurt is located, service workers can use visors, while Bavaria’s health office advises they can be used “only to reinforce a mask covering the mouth and nose”.
A similar debate is taking place in the United States.
Many airlines in European countries including Germany, Italy and France require masks that cover the nose and mouth. Qatar Airways requires passengers to wear both a mask and face shield.