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Brussels Airlines scraps mask requirement, Belgium considers same for public transport
Brussels Airlines has decided to lift its requirements for passengers and cabin crew to wear face masks on flights, while federal minister for mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) is calling for a similar action on public transport.
As of March, masks were deemed no longer necessary in Belgium outside of care institutions and public transit networks.
Many airlines maintained rules regarding masks, but Brussels Airlines is now removing this requirement for its passengers.
“We are not subject to the rules of public transport, so we can decide this ourselves,” said a spokesperson for the company, who added that both staff and passengers have long been asking for the requirement to be dropped.
“The experience at the airport is now extended to the aircraft itself,” the spokesperson explained.
“Before, it was quite inconsistent: you did not have to wear a mask at the airport, but once you boarded our plane you suddenly had to. That is now being done away with. It’s more pleasant to fly without a mask than with one.”
Airlines have long pointed out that planes pose a low risk of coronavirus infection due to advanced air filtration systems.
“If the plane is adequately ventilated and that air is filtered, it will reduce the chance of infections,” virologist Marc Van Ranst confirmed.
“We are getting into a part of the epidemic where we will see fewer and fewer cases in Europe and so, one by one, airlines will do away with the mouth mask.”
Calls to also lift face mask requirements on public transit
Federal minister for mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) called for a lifting of the requirement to wear a mask on public transportation, as well.
Van Ranst was less receptive to that idea, saying it was “too early” but that “in the summer, the virus circulates less, so in the long run it should be feasible”.
But Gilkinet is hoping for a removal of the mask requirement as soon as next week.
“In consultation with my colleagues responsible for mobility in the regions, I asked the core cabinet of the federal government on Friday that the Consultation Committee meet as soon as possible to decide on the end of the mask obligation on public transport,” Gilkinet said.
“Given the development of the pandemic, the end of this measure can now be considered, even though wearing a mask on the train will undoubtedly remain recommended for sick or vulnerable people.”
Van Ranst said that if and when such a requirement is lifted, better air quality monitoring will be needed.
“I take the bus and train every day. Certainly on old buses, better ventilation is needed. Even if such an old bus is only half-empty, the CO2 concentration rises too quickly. Maybe transport companies should monitor that themselves.”
Pieterjan Desmet, spokesperson for Brussels’ transport minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen), said the minister does not yet want to take a position on the issue of removing the mask requirement on public transit in the capital: “We will, as always, implement what the consultation committee decides. But we understand the hesitation because it is one of the last obligations still in force.”
Photo: Brussels Airlines marking International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022 with all-female flight crew