Europe Is Dropping Its Mask Mandate For Flights. When Will Australia?

"If you don't have to wear it in the supermarket, why do you have to wear it in the airport?"

Europe is binning its mask mandate for flights next week. America got rid of theirs in April. Australia’s is still in place. But for how long?

After the news broke that the EU is dropping its mandate for face masks during air travel next week, Australia now finds itself lagging behind both Europe and America when it comes to stripping back COVID related public health measures.

This was a hot topic of discussion this morning on The Today Show, with the hosts speaking with two social commentators to get their opinion on whether it’s now time Australia gets rid of mask mandates too.

Both commentators appeared to support the dropping of the mandate.

Osman Faruqi, culture news editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, who is not a health expert, but who presumably has his finger on the pulse regarding what’s going on ‘culturally’ in Australia, told The Today Show he didn’t think we should have an all or nothing approach to masks.

“It’s seen as being mandated or nothing. Either it’s the law and we’ll fine you if you don’t wear a mask or we’re going to remove that and it’s a free for all. I think the best kind of public health messaging has tended to stay away from strictly enforced measures and just educated people about why in certain instances they might want to wear a mask.”

Osman Faruqi

He said that he, having had COVID, really doesn’t want to get it again. He also said he’s not keen on getting the flu either. So for that reason he would wear a mask – by choice – in high-density areas like planes or on public transport – even if it wasn’t mandated.

“Does that mean everyone who doesn’t wear a mask should be fined or not allowed to fly? I’m not convinced about that. But I think when you focus it on mandates you miss that opportunity to really educate people about their health.”

“It’s just frustrated me throughout the pandemic that it’s been this really binary enforcement or not of the way we’ve approached the issue of masks.”

Osman Faruqi

One of the show’s hosts then asked Michelle Stephenson from Nova Radio (who was also on air to comment on the mask mandate issue): “If you don’t have to wear it in the supermarket, why do you have to wear it in the airport?”

“I’ve been to airports a few times over the past month and they’re not really policing it,” Michelle responded. “I can guarantee you that. It’s interesting what Os[man] was saying about making it part of your everyday health strategy – what we saw with a lot of Asian countries specifically after SARS, they made mask-wearing just part of their everyday occurrence.”

She added: “We just need to see that more and I think what we’ve done is by policing it, we’ve pushed a lot of people in the opposite camp because people all of a sudden are like: ‘Well, you can’t tell me what to do. I don’t want to be told…’ people don’t want to be told what to do. So I think what we’re going to see will be this balance… people will, you know, start making decisions for themselves.”

Not everyone is in agreement on this. Some people still support things like mask mandates in order to make daily activities like commuting (and less daily activities like travelling) safer for people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID.

It remains to be seen if and when Australia will get rid of its mask mandates for flights.

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