Melbourne Airport has issued fresh calls for a loosening of the federal mask mandate for airports and planes following a global move to drop the requirement, but epidemiologists warn that such a change would be too soon.
The European Union will no longer recommend masks be worn at airports and on planes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 starting next week, though member states can still require them.
Passengers wearing masks at Melbourne Airport.Credit:Luis Ascui
A Melbourne Airport spokesperson said they had been asking for an end to the federal mask mandate since March because of the “disconnect” in COVID rules.
“Airports are very similar environments to supermarkets, shopping centres and sports stadiums, where masks are no longer required,” the spokesperson said.
”There’s currently a disconnect, in that almost every weekend we will have passengers fly into the airport where masks are mandatory, only to then travel to the MCG when they can mingle with up to 80,000 other people without masks.“
Professor Nancy Baxter, head of the University of Melbourne’s school of population and global health, said airports and planes were higher-risk settings, and Australia’s high COVID-19 transmission levels made it unwise to lift the federal requirement for masks now.
Flight crew wearing masks in the arrivals hall at Melbourne Airport.Credit:Luis Ascui
“Unlike the retail setting, you are confined to a very small space in very close proximity to other people on a plane, and you’re forced to sit for long periods of that time,” she said.
“So the risk is different, the setting is very different, and I don’t think saying that we’ve relaxed masks in retail means that we should relax rules on planes. I don’t think that is necessarily a meaningful argument to make. And I would say with the high levels of transmission we have now, we probably should still have masks in retail.