A good month after most state corona protection requirements were abolished, the obligation to wear masks on buses, trains and planes is also coming under pressure. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing spoke in favor of an end after EU authorities relaxed their recommendations for a general mask requirement on airplanes.
“We should take a uniform approach here across Europe and lift the mask requirement, especially in air traffic,” said the FDP politician on Thursday. “I see the same need for adjustment for the mask requirement on buses and trains.” Aviation also called for an end to the mask requirement, and the local and long-distance transport industry no longer sees a reason for this.
The nationwide mask requirement on airplanes and long-distance trains is set out in the Infection Protection Act until September 23rd. Masks are also compulsory in local transport with buses and trains, which are stipulated by the respective federal states.
The European Aviation Safety Agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC had announced that they were relaxing their recommendations for corona protection in air traffic. As of this Monday, a general recommendation to wear medical masks in airports and airplanes will no longer apply. If there is a government obligation to wear masks in public transport at the point of departure or at the destination, this should also continue to apply in the aircraft, according to the recommendation.
Lufthansa explained: “It’s time to focus on voluntariness, as is now the norm in other areas of daily life, such as in the supermarket or restaurant.” Highly efficient filters constantly clean the cabin air in aircraft.
With a view to the new recommendations of the EU authorities, the Federal Ministry of Health explained that the national authorities decide on the obligation to wear masks. It therefore continues to apply to all domestic German routes and flights that take off or land in Germany. Children under the age of six are exempt.
The Association of Transport Companies supported Wissing’s assessment. “For months we have been experiencing full football stadiums, concerts and events without the obligation to wear masks. And in restaurants, shopping centers and supermarkets, more and more people are out and about without a mask,” said general manager Oliver Wolff. Nevertheless, the number of infections fell.
From the point of view of the bus and train companies, there is therefore no longer any reason to adhere to the mask requirement in local or long-distance transport. Especially in local transport, the average stay in the vehicle is rather short compared to a shopping spree in a shopping center or dinner in a restaurant.
The obligation to wear masks in means of transport was retained in the Infection Protection Act, also with a view to the fact that buses and trains are usually very full at peak times during rush-hour traffic. The association of transport companies said they hoped that the countries responsible for local transport would make adjustments soon.
Of course, the further course of the pandemic should be kept in mind and the situation should be reassessed if the number of infections increases again. In France, the mask requirement on public transport ends early next week, as Health Minister Olivier Véran said.