EU to lift mask requirement for air travelers next week

The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes from next week as part of the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities announced on Wednesday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, taken with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in normalizing air travel”. for passengers and crew.

The new directive “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 a growing number of European countries,” the two agencies said in a statement. a joint statement.

“Behave responsibly”

“Passengers should, however, behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “And a coughing and sneezing passenger should strongly consider wearing a mask facial, to reassure people sitting nearby.”

Although the new recommendations come into effect on May 16, mask rules may still vary by airline beyond that date if they fly to or from destinations where the rules are different.

Director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Andrea Ammon, said handwashing and social distancing should still be practiced, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to cause a bottleneck.

A passenger wearing a face mask prepares to board a plane departing Marseille from Brussels Zaventem International Airport in June 2020. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

The agencies also recommended that airlines keep passenger location information collection systems on standby in case they are needed in the future, for example if a dangerous new variant emerges.

Mask Conflicts

The requirement to wear masks on planes has been in place for about two years. This has sometimes led to disputes between passengers and airlines. German airline Lufthansa last week wouldn’t let a group of Jewish travelers board a plane because some refused to wear masks. The airline has since apologized for the incident.

The drop in COVID-19 cases reported in recent weeks has prompted European countries to roll back pandemic-related restrictions.

The German government announced on Wednesday that it was disbanding a crisis task force appointed to lead the official response.

The mask mandate remains in Canada

As of April 25, fully vaccinated travelers to Canada are no longer required to provide a quarantine plan upon entry, and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children aged 5 to 11 who are accompanied by a parent or fully vaccinated guardian no longer have to undergo a COVID-19 entry test into Canada.

However, the Canadian government has remained firm on the wearing of mandatory masks on planes and trains.

“While some restrictions may be relaxed, air and rail travelers are reminded that they are still required to wear a mask throughout their journey,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said last month.

The United States stopped enforcing mask requirements for air travel on April 18, the day a federal judge in Florida struck down a nationwide mask mandate on airplanes and public transportation.

France ends the obligation to wear a mask in public transport

The French government announced separately on Wednesday that people will no longer have to wear masks on any form of public transport from Monday.

Health Minister Olivier Veran, speaking after a Cabinet meeting, said the decision was part of policies aimed at lifting most restrictions as the pandemic slows in the country.

French authorities this week reported about 39,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 each day on average, down 30% from last week. The number of patients in hospitals has also fallen steadily in recent weeks.

Wearing face masks will no longer be required on subways, buses, trains and domestic flights. It’s still in demand in hospitals and nursing homes, Veran said.

France lifted most coronavirus restrictions in March.