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European Union agencies agree to end mask mandate on flights

European Union agencies agree to end mask mandate on flights
A Ryanair Boeing 737 landing at Dublin Airport in Ireland on September 28, 2017. The European Union has decided to end its face mask mandate on flight. File Photo by Aidan Crawley/EPA-EFE

May 11 (UPI) -- The European Union will no longer require a face mask on flights as a measure to defend against COVID-19 but will still recommend it as the best protection while flying, associated agencies said Wednesday.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control made the update, saying it would relieve a burden placed on the commercial aviation industry.

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In the United States, the Justice Department is appealing a U.S. district court ruling that struck down a mask mandate on U.S. airlines. The Transportation Security Administration said in April it would not enforce the mask mandate until an appeals court rules.

"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," EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a statement. "For passengers and aircrews, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel.

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"Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. 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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ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said the development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol will continue to be visited as risk of transmissions and new variants emerge.

"While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal," Ammon said in a statement. "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.

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Ammon said the ECDC will work with the EASA to adjust the policy is needed.

"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," Ammon said.

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