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EU to drop Covid face mask rule for airports and flights in Europe

In a joint statement, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the measure would help alleviate the burden on the travel industry.

The rule will be dropped from May 16, although officials said some airlines may continue to require their use.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky.

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel.

“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them”.

Fresh guidance to airports coming in from that date will also recommend that airport operators should avoid imposing distancing requirements “if these will very likely lead to a bottleneck”.

However, the revised protocol states that face mask measures should be aligned with national measures on wearing face masks on public transport – meaning they still may be required in some cases beyond May 1, depending on the country of departure or destination.

Andrea Ammon, Director of the ECDC, said that vaccines had allowed “our lives to begin to return to normal”.

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission.

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination States should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

Airlines should continue to promote the use of facemasks as an option to passengers, states the guidance, but that passengers should “respect others’ decision to wear or to not wear a mask”.

It adds: “In their communication, operators should highlight that people at high risk for severe COVID-19 are advised to wear an FFP2 respirator mask during the flight for their own protection”.

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