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Masks no longer required in classrooms in Austria

School students will not be required to wear masks in Austria as of Wednesday.

Masks no longer required in classrooms in Austria
Austrian students are getting ready for the Matura, the "exit" exam from school. Photo by marco fileccia on Unsplash

From Wednesday June 16th, it will be no longer be mandatory for children to wear masks in class and group rooms at all schools.

Education Minister Heinz Faßmann (ÖVP) and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) announced the change on Saturday, with the measure finalised in parliament on Tuesday.

The ministers said falling infection rates had allowed the change. 

Masks will still be required where distance cannot be kept, i.e. in indoor events or activities such as choirs, as well as in the rest of the school building (I.e. other than classes and group rooms). 

Is this too soon? 

While school students and some parents – along with members of the teaching staff – have welcomed the changes, experts are less convinced. 

Michael Wagner, a microbiologist from the University of Vienna, told Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper that the change was likely to lead to an increase in infections. 

Masks, testing and sport: What are the rules for schools in Austria?

“If you relax these effective measures, the probability that the number of unreported cases will rise again in schools.”

Wagner also warned that the change might signal to the public that the pandemic is over “when this is certainly not the case”. 

The policy change does not impact the rules for testing in schools in Austria. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “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. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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