The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have removed the recommendation for the mandatory use of facemasks at airports and on board a flight, while noting that the facemask is one of the best protections against the transmission of COVID-19.
This was stipulated following Wednesday’s update on health security measures for air travel. The update to the Joint Aviation Health and Safety Protocol takes into account the latest developments in the pandemic, and in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the consequent lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries.
In addition to the changes with regard to facemasks, as the recommendations include a relaxation of the most stringent measures on air operations, this will help ease the burden on industry while maintaining appropriate measures, according to EASA/ECDC.
The move is, according to EASA, a major step forward in the normalisation of air travel. However, they add, passengers must behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. “A passenger who is coughing and sneezing should seriously consider wearing a face mask, for the peace of mind of those sitting nearby,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky.
The new recommendations on the use of face masks will come into effect from 16 May 2022. However, the rules for facemasks in particular will continue to vary by airline beyond that date. For example, flights to or from a destination where facemasks are still required to be worn on public transport should continue to encourage the use of facemasks, according to the recommendations. Vulnerable passengers should continue to wear them regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type that offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.
They also urge passengers to observe clearance measures in indoor areas, including at the airport, wherever possible. But airport operators should take a pragmatic approach in this regard: for example, they should avoid imposing clearance requirements if they are very likely to lead to a bottleneck elsewhere in the passenger journey, especially if they are not required nationally or regionally in other countries.