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EU lifts mask recommendation for air travel in Europe

The European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, though member states can still require them, officials said Wednesday.

The European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, though member states can still require them, officials said Wednesday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.

The new guideline “takes account of 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 joint statement.

“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said.

“And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”

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While the new recommendations take effect on May 16, rules for masks may still vary by airline beyond that date if they fly to or from destinations where the rules are different.

Germany’s Health Ministry said it would continue to require all passengers over the age of 6 to wear medical masks on flights to, from, or within the country, though they can be removed during meals.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon said washing hands and social distancing should still be practiced, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to lead to a bottleneck.

Airlines welcomed the change in guidance and called for a consistent approach to mask mandates.

“We believe that mask requirements on board aircraft should end when masks are no longer mandated in other parts of daily life, for example, theaters, offices or on public transport,” said Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association.

Last month the Biden administration announced it will no longer enforce a U.S. mask mandate on airlines and public transportation, after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the directive was unlawful.

Source: AAP