AUSTRALIA: Masks off! No longer mandated for domestic air travel from 9 September 2022
National Cabinet – a combination of the Prime Minister and the Premiers of each state, and Chief Ministers of the territories met yesterday (Wednesday 31 August, 2022) and have decided to remove mask mandates for domestic airline travel from next Friday.
Good idea or bad idea?
I tend to favour the ’bad idea’ side of the argument. I usually agree with the approach of epidemiologist Raina MacIntyre and the OzSage organisation. They have expressed opposition to the accompanying decision of the National Cabinet to reduce mandated isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19 from 7 days to 5 days on the grounds that a third to a half of patients will still be infectious after a 5-day isolation.
The evidence on mask-wearing on aeroplanes seems to be less strong. However, it seems still to be a good idea, given that it is impossible to socially distance on planes. Want some evidence? Here are links to articles in everything from the New York Times to the ABC, PubMed and The Conversation to the Daily Mail (it even has pictures of simulated droplet spread in business class on a plane! Broadly, they say the same thing. Transmission risk is low, but masks reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 on a plane even more. And remember, airline passengers, are now up to three times more at risk of catching COVID since the Omnicrom variant emerged according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) advisor David Powell.
I remind everyone that this is an elimination of the mandate to wear a mask on a plane, not advice NOT to wear a mask.
Despite the lifting of the mask mandate in Airports back in June this year, I still wear one, and I will continue to wear one in lounges and on flights for the foreseeable future. That’s part of my armoury for not getting COVID, and lessening the risk to others.
I suggest you add ‘checking mask-wearing mandates’ to your list of flight pre-checks. The trend is to reduce mask mandates: Qantas no longer requires them for some international flights including London, Rome and the USA and even Singapore Airlines does not mandate mask wearing on most flights, unless the destination requires it.