EU scraps mask mandate for flights and airports

Even the pilots had to wear masks on board. Here, a first officer wears a protective mask while performing pre-flight checks inside the cockpit aboard a passenger plane operated by Wizz Air at Liszt Ferenc Airport in Budapest, Hungary.

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The European Union is set to drop its mask mandate for passengers on flights and at airports from Monday, following an update to guidance for the aviation industry.

The recommendation for compulsory wearing of medical masks at airports and on board a flight is lifted on May 16, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Center for Prevention and of disease control, while noting that a face mask is still one. the best protection against the transmission of Covid-19.

The updated guidance takes into account the latest developments in the pandemic, “in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in an increasing number of European countries”, said the EASA. said in a press release.

The move is a big step forward and largely aligns with public transport rules across Europe, according to EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.

“For passengers and air crew, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel. Passengers, however, should behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure people sitting nearby.”

Meanwhile, ECDC director Andrea Ammon said that “although risks remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have enabled our lives to start to return to normal”.

It is hoped that the removal of mask-wearing mandates will be a boost to an aviation and tourism industry hard hit over the past two years, as a significant number of people have postponed their trips while there had added layers of Covid requirements, from Covid tests and vaccinations to passenger locator forms and mask-wearing on planes.

Now, many countries have dropped Covid testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers and passenger locator forms, as a significant number of their populations are fully vaccinated and boosted.

Rules may vary by airline

However, individual airlines can still choose to recommend or require mask-wearing on board, EASA said, with the rules likely to continue to vary by airline beyond Monday.

For example, flights to or from a destination where mask-wearing is still required on public transport should continue to encourage mask-wearing, according to the recommendations. Vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, EASA added, and social distancing should be encouraged in indoor areas of the airport where possible.

New variants of Covid continue to emerge and the pandemic has not been officially declared over, with some parts of the world still experiencing large outbreaks of Covid. Health officials have urged governments to remain cautious, insisting a new strain of Covid could arise that is more virulent and dangerous than the previous one.

“New VOCs [variants of concern] are frequently discovered with varying degrees of immune evasion and symptom severity,” the EASA said. Airport staff, crew members and passengers should pay particular attention to the recommendations and requirements of national authorities in the state of the country they are visiting, she added. .

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