Mask rule dropped on all flights to Malta from Monday
Health authorities take up EU agencies' recommendation
Masks wearing will no longer be required on flights to Malta from Monday as health authorities follow recommendations by the EU's health and aviation agencies.
The agencies said on Wednsday they will be dropping the recommendation for mandatory wearing of medical masks in airports and on board a flight.
"As has been done so far during the COVID-19 pandemic, Malta will be following ECDC's advice and therefore from Monday, the health authorities will no longer be obliging passengers to wear masks on flights headed to Malta," a spokesperson for the health ministry said.
This means masks will only be mandatory in hospitals and in care homes.
In a statement, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the update takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries.
In addition to the changes with respect to masks, its recommendations include a relaxation of the more stringent measures on air operations, which will help relieve the burden on the industry while still keeping "appropriate measures in place".
"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," ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said.
Asked about the change earlier on Wednesday, public health chief Charmaine Gauci said the health authorities were in talks with the EU over the matter but did not say whether Malta would be dropping the mask mandate.
It now means masks are only mandatory in hospitals and clinics and in care facilities.
Sources in the aviation industry have told Times of Malta that while the recommendation is a step forward, airlines still tend to follow what authorities say on issues such as this one, especially when there are laws still in force.
"Airport staff, crew members and passengers should be alert and follow the recommendations and requirements of the national authorities of the State or region they are visiting," the agencies noted. Vulnerable peoples have also been urged to wear masks throughout their flights.