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Coronavirus

Europe to drop mask requirements for air travel next week

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The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said Wednesday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.

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The new guideline “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” the two agencies said in a joint statement.

“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said. “And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”

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While the new recommendations take effect on May 16, rules for masks may still vary by airline beyond that date if they fly to or from destinations where the rules are different.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control director Andrea Ammon said washing hands and social distancing should still be practiced, but airport operators are advised not to impose distancing requirements if these are likely to lead to a bottleneck.

The agencies also recommended that airlines keep systems for collecting passenger locator information on standby in case they are needed in future, for example if a new dangerous variant emerges.

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