EU to drop face mask rules for air travel from next week

Rules for wearing face coverings are expected to vary after mandatory requirement is lifted

Travelers at a Covid-19 testing centre in Duesseldorf airport, Germany. EPA
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Face mask rules are being dropped for airports and flights in Europe from next week, the EU’s aviation and health safety groups said on Wednesday.

The change from May 16 drops all mask requirements and follows the lead of several national governments.

“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,” European Union Aviation Safety Agency executive director Patrick Ky said.

Italy, France, Greece, Cyprus and other European countries have been relaxing or ending many or all of their measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that even though wearing masks would not be mandatory, “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”.

Rules for wearing masks are expected to vary after the mandatory requirement is lifted, with airlines told to encourage passengers to use masks on flights to or from destinations where wearing a face covering on public transport is still required, the agencies said.

A number of US airlines said they would no longer require masks in April, after a federal judge in Florida decided that the administration's mask mandate on public transport was unlawful.

US health officials on Tuesday restated their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains and buses, despite the court decision.

All of the UK's coronavirus travel measures, including passenger locator forms, were dropped in March.

The British travel industry had hoped that the end of restrictions would lead to a boost in flights and all types of travel after two years of Covid grounding flights, docking ships and ripping into profits.

Greece ordered the lifting of Covid restrictions from May 2, with tourists no longer needing to show vaccine passports, PCR test results or any Covid 19-related documents.

Cyprus, another economy reliant on tourism, has dropped similar rules.

Beyond Europe, the Japanese government is easing restrictions on foreign travellers arriving in the country, with no quarantine or self-isolation for fully vaccinated people arriving from next month.

New Zealand has also welcomed tourists from more than 50 countries, including the US, Britain and Japan, for the first time in more than two years.

Updated: June 21, 2023, 6:31 AM