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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased
Health measures are set to be eased for air travel in Europe. (Photo: Eric Piermont / AFP)

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“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 the statement. 

“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. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have 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.”

Member comments

  1. Starting to go out without covering my face with a mask and increasingly more and more people are leaving off the mask.

  2. I am just mow not wearing the mask when going out and increasingly more and more people are keeping them off.

  3. I am now not wearing the mask when going out and increasingly more and more people are not wearing them.

  4. I am not covering my face when I go out and increasingly mire and more people are doing the same.

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TRAVEL NEWS

The Covid rules you should know if you’re travelling from Switzerland this summer

When it comes to Covid regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, the situation is certainly much more relaxed than it was last summer. However, certain countries still maintain rules in regards to vaccinations and masks.

The Covid rules you should know if you're travelling from Switzerland this summer

Months ago, health experts predicted that coronavirus will not be circulating extensively during the summer months and won’t strike us again before the weather turns cold in the fall / winter.

But as it turns out, these forecasts were wrong, as Omicron and its highly contagious sub-variants keep infecting increasing numbers of people across Europe.

In Switzerland, the number of reported contaminations has risen from under 10,000 a week in May to 33,108 registered in a span of seven days on June 28, with officials expecting an explosion in cases as summer progresses.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

What does this mean for international travel?

As of right now (and the situation could change in coming weeks), Switzerland doesn’t require either testing or proof of vaccination upon entry. This is also the situation in many other countries in Europe as well as farther afield.

However, some popular European tourist destinations still (or again) have Covid-related entry regulations in place, as well as rules inside the country.

This is an overview of the places where people who live in Switzerland like to spend their summer holidays:

France

Entry requirements:

For vaccinated persons, full vaccination for at least one week must be proven. The last dose must be less than nine months old. Cured people can travel a week after receiving a single dose.

For recovered people: the positive result of a PCR test more than 11 days old and less than six months.

For non-vaccinated persons: a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Children under 12 are exempt.

On-site measures:

Wearing a mask on public transport, which has not been required since May 16th, is once again strongly recommended — though not compulsory.

Italy

While proof of vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Italy, there are some mask requirements in place in the country.

From mid-June, Italian government extended the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30th, except on planes. The surgical mask is also still compulsory from the age of six in health establishments.

Portugal

Proof of full vaccination for at least 14 days is required to enter, with the last dose no older than 270 days ago. Swiss Covid certificates should suffice.

For recovered people, proof of recovery dating from 11 to 180 days before arrival in Portugal is required.

The unvaccinated should have a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 24 hours before departure.

Children under 12 are exempt from these requirements.

Also, all travellers must fill out a passenger locator card before departure, as well as a form required by the Portuguese health authorities before their departure or during the flight.

On-site measures:

Portugal decided on April 21st to end the obligation to wear a mask indoors. However, masks are still required on public transport, hospitals or retirement homes.

These are the regulation for mainland Portugal; those visiting Madeira, can see the rules in this link.

Spain

Since June 2nd, travellers from a Schengen area (which includes Switzerland) are no longer subject to any health checks upon arrival.

On-site measures:

Spain lifted the requirement to wear a mask indoors on April 20th. The mask is, however, still required from the age of six on public transport, in hospitals and retirement homes. Differences may exist between regions, so consult the websites of individual areas.

Austria

Since May 16th, travel restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, an FFP2 mask remains compulsory from the age of six for flights to and from the Vienna region.

On-site measures

FFP2 masks are mandatory from the age of 14 on public transport and in pharmacies in Vienna.

Germany

Since June 1st and until at least August 31st, entry restrictions to Germany have all been suspended.

On-site measures:

No vaccination or testing rules on entry, but restrictions remain in some federal states, so check local websites for more information.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory from the age of six on public transport and in medical establishments. To go to the hospital, an antigen test of less than 24 hours or PCR of less than 48 hours is required.

READ MORE: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

United Kingdom

There are no more Covid restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

United States

According to the US Embassy in Switzerland, “air travelers to the United States are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the United States”.

However, there are different requirements for different categories of travelers: “all non-U.S.-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft”.

If you want to find out what the latest requirements are at your destination, you can do so by checking out the websites of their embassies in Switzerland, or official tourist bodies for each country / region.

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