New EU directives ease mask-wearing on airlines

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Face masks will not be required on flights and at airports in the European Union, according to new COVID-19 guidelines.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control issued new guidelines Wednesday that relaxes the need to wear masks while flying in Europe. The new guidelines will come into effect on May 16.

“It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can begin to ease health security measures,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement. Press statement. “For many passengers, as well as crew members, there is a strong desire that masks will no longer be mandatory in air travel. We are now at the beginning of this process.”

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“Passengers should continue to comply with their airline’s requirements and, where preventative measures are optional, make responsible decisions and respect the choices of other passengers,” Ky said. “In particular, a coughing and sneezing passenger should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure people sitting nearby.”

The new guidelines allow flights to adapt their mask requirements to the countries concerned. If a government at either end of a flight requires masks, airlines must follow that country’s rules. The guidelines also ask airlines to encourage passengers to wear masks if masks are still required on public transport at the destination or departure point.

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Although masks are no longer mandatory, ECDC Director Andrea Ammon stressed that masks are, “along with physical distancing and good hand hygiene”, still “one of the best methods to reduce transmission”.

A Florida judge overturned the U.S. federal mask mandate for transportation on April 18.

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