Starting on May 16 it will be optional for travelers to wear face coverings
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) announced on Wednesday in a press release that starting on May 16 face masks will no longer be mandatory in airports and during flights.
Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director, said: ”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.”
During the past few weeks, European countries have been removing COVID-19-related mandates —65% of Europe is already open to Americans without restrictions— and, since March, many airlines have already removed the mask mandate, including large European carriers such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM.
Now, after this new announcement, there will be a consense in the measures and not only during flights, but also at European airports. However, airlines can still require passengers to wear face coverings according to internal policies, and carriers and passengers must also respect local rules of international destinations.
A Relief For Some, A Concern For Others
The decision to remove the mask mandate has been reached through agreements among different authorities in the aviation industry in Europe. “It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures,” said Ky.
The executive director added: “For many passengers, and also aircrew members, there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel. We are now at the start of that process.”
Authorities recognized the importance of wearing face coverings under special circumstances and insisted that passengers should remain cautious and maintain hygienic measures. Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director, warned: “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.”
In the press release, both agencies also recommended airlines to keep a data collection of passengers’ information and make it available to public health authorities in case there is a new variant concern that could be more dangerous than the existing ones.
The document states: “Airport staff, crew members, and passengers should be alert and follow the recommendations and requirements of the national authorities of the State or region they are visiting.”
The new measures contradict those stated by other public health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States which still recommends passengers wear face masks during flights despite the removal of the mandate in many locations.
Passengers with chronicle diseases, non-vaccinated, with weakened immune systems, or other health concerns are strongly advised to keep wearing face coverings and maintain distance when possible. The document states that all travelers should follow the Council Recommendation of the European Union.
Fewer Restrictions For Travelers
Now that masks will be optional during air travel, Europe vacations are looking more like they did in 2019. More travelers can visit the Old Continent without COVID-related restrictions.
In total, 27 countries in Europe have completely dropped travel restrictions, including top destinations like the United Kingdom, Greece, Ireland, Madeira, Switzerland, and Denmark.
Travelers from the United States and Canada only need basic travel documentation to enter these countries. Other nations like Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal have eased restrictions and might require some documentation like a vaccination certificate, or a negative COVID test result.
To know what are the current rules and recommendations, travelers can consult the International Air Transport Association (IATA) TravelCentre Map, revise the US Department of State Travel Advisories, the CDC’s Travel Recommendations, the official tourism websites of their destinations, and stay up to date with news.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com