Masks on planes are here to stay, says US health chief

‘When you’re dealing with a closed space, you want to go that that extra step,’ says Dr Fauci

Helen Coffey
Monday 20 December 2021 08:28 GMT
<p>Passengers are required to wear masks during flights</p>

Passengers are required to wear masks during flights

The public health measure of wearing masks on flights is going to be around for the foreseeable future, the US chief medical advisor has said.

Dr Anthony Fauci made the comment while being interviewed on ABC’s This Week, when he was asked whether a point would be reached when passengers weren’t required to wear face coverings on planes.

“Several CEOs of the top airlines have said that on an aeroplane you are actually safer than in an ICU – [with] the protection with the filtration system they have – they were suggesting there really wasn’t much need for a mask on an aeroplane,” the interviewer said.

“Are we going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on aeroplanes?”

“I don’t think so,” Dr Fauci replied. “I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step when you have people… You get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five-hour flight, even though you have a good filtration system I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do and we should be doing it.”

The US first introduced a federal mask mandate on planes and public transport in February 2021.

The directive has since been extended several times, once from May to September, then from September to January.

The latest extension, announced last month, will see the rules remain in place until at least 18 March.

“The Administration will continue to require masking during international or other public travel – as well as in transportation hubs such as airports or indoor bus terminals – through March 18 as we continue to battle Covid-19 this winter,” reads an official statement from the White House.

Fines for noncompliance will be doubled, with a minimum fine of $500 and fines of up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.

The simple public health measure has been linked to a spike in incidents of disruptive and violent passenger behaviour on flights in the States.

Covid-related rules on planes saw a surge in unruly passenger incidents last year, and the trend has continued into 2021, with the FAA reporting in July that roughly 75 per cent of incidents between January and July were mask-related.

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