EU lifts mandatory masks on flights and airports

Even the pilots had to wear masks on board. Here, a first officer wearing a protective mask conducts a pre-flight check in the cockpit of a Wizz Air passenger aircraft at the Franz Liszt Airport in Budapest, Hungary.

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The European Union is set to phase out the mandatory wearing of passengers on flights and at airports from Monday after updating guidelines for the aviation industry.

The recommendation for mandatory wearing of medical masks at airports and on board aircraft is canceled on May 16, the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said last week, while noting that the face mask is still relevant . of the best protection against the transmission of Covid-19.

The updated guidance takes into account recent developments in relation to the pandemic, “in particular, levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, as well as the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” EASA said in a statement. said in a statement.

According to EASA Executive Director Patrick Key, the move is a big step forward and is broadly in line with public transport regulations in Europe.

“For passengers and flight crew, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel. However, passengers must behave responsibly and respect the choices of others. to comfort those around you.

Meanwhile, ECDC director Andrea Ammon said that “while risks remain, we see that non-drug interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to return to normal.”

It is hoped that lifting the mandatory mask-wearing will be a boon to the aviation and travel industry, which has been hit hard over the past two years as a significant number of people have postponed travel while there were additional layers of Covid. requirements, from Covid tests and vaccinations to forms for locating passengers and wearing masks on board aircraft.

Many countries have now waived Covid testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers and passenger location forms as a significant number of their populations are fully vaccinated and boosted.

Rules may vary depending on the airline.

However, individual airlines may still recommend or require masks to be worn on board, EASA said, with rules likely to change by airline after Monday.

For example, on flights to or from destinations where masks are still required on public transport, masks should be encouraged to continue to be encouraged. EASA added that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear face masks regardless of regulations, and where possible, social distancing should be encouraged in indoor areas of the airport.

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

“New VOCs [variants of concern] often found with varying degrees of responsiveness and severity of symptoms,” the EASA said in a statement. .

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