Airlines from western countries are slowly easing COVID travel restrictions, what about different Asian airlines?
Wearing of Masks
Masks were first mandated at the beginning of the pandemic, making travel a challenge. Each airline has its own rules to prevent the spread. But now that the world is slowly moving forward and has learned how to stay healthy, some airlines from Western countries are relaxing their flight rules.
While Western countries are steadily relaxing their travel rules, how is Asia faring? How prepared are Asian airlines for mask mandate removal?
Wearing of Masks as a Norm in Asian Countries
Before the pandemic broke out, some Asian countries were already wearing masks. Not because of viral infection, but for environmental reasons. Japan, Taiwan, China, and Thailand are some of the countries that wore face masks long before the pandemic. Basically, it is part of the Asian culture to wear face masks and to wear them for practical reasons.
For example, Japanese people wear face masks when they feel sick to prevent them from spreading to others. Taiwanese wear face masks to keep warm in the winter. Filipinos (from the Philippines) wear face masks when they ride their motorcycles to block exhaust fumes from other vehicles on the road. Wearing face masks in Asia is entirely for practical reasons and is voluntary.
Only when the pandemic broke out was everyone forced to wear them everywhere.
The compulsion to wear masks not only protects the wearer, but also those around him. The virus spreads in overpopulated areas where people can come into close contact with each other. Countries like China and the U.S. are some of the most populous countries where the spread of the COVID virus has skyrocketed in its first year.
Effectiveness of Mask Mandating
The study shows that mask-wearing is effective in curbing the spread of COIVD in densely populated areas. Wearing masks with social distancing measures shows a decrease in infection rates in countries that strictly implement these rules.
Asian countries have implemented strict mask policies during the pandemic, particularly China and Singapore. China not only mandates the wearing of masks, but also follows a “zero covid policy” of tightening limits, rules, and restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that the country is true to its word. Singapore also had to require its citizens to wear masks. The country was able to manage the pandemic by testing only those who showed flu-like symptoms, openly informing and updating the public about the existing situation, and incrementalism or taking a step-by-step approach.
Population Density in an Aircraft
Considering the concept of population density, can an airplane be considered a high population density vehicle?
An airplane can accommodate 10 to 800 passengers (excluding crew), depending on the type and size of the aircraft. It is considered a population-dense vehicle if passengers in the aircraft occupy two out of three seats in each row. This means that the distance between individual passengers is not sufficient to be considered a “safe social distance.”
Aircraft Filtration and Ventilation Effectiveness Against COVID
“Planes have excellent air ventilation and filtration systems, which remove coronavirus particles from the air about every six minutes” – U.S. Transportation Command
The likelihood of contracting the virus is if a passenger breathes the same air as a passenger in close contact with a positive virus. Masks trap virus particles from the air you breathe, helping to reduce the amount of virus you inhale. Although airplanes have the best filtration and ventilation systems, passengers are still advised to keep their face masks for safety.
Western countries’ mask mandate removal impact Asian flights
Two years after the outbreak of the pandemic, countries have already eased their restrictions on COVID. The U.S. recently declared that all of its states are now mask-free. The same is true for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, and most European countries. People are now free to enter and leave the country as if things were back to normal.
Colorado State Governor, Jared Polis, mentioned that masks are unnecessary and considered them an infringement of freedom. The US is one of the first countries to get rid of mask mandates and allow everyone to live normal lives. The main reason for this is to allow people to live a normal life and accept the fact that everyone needs to adapt to the pandemic.
Travelers from Western countries have to follow the rules of the Asian country they want to travel to. This is because not all Asian countries have lifted the restrictions yet. The impact of the lifting of the mask mandate on Western countries to Asian airlines has not been as influential as expected.
Asian airlines are still implementing the mask mandate and show little to no signs of easing. But how prepared are Asian airlines for mask mandate removal if given the chance?
When will Asian airlines go mask-free?
Decisions are made and implemented depending on the political leadership and infection rate of each country. In some Western countries, it is now an option to fly without a mask, but in most Asian airlines it is still mandatory.
The clear answer to the question of when Asian airlines will fly mask-free is still unclear. Most decision factors depend on the number of cases in each country. Although travel restrictions are being eased and the borders of various ASEAN countries are opening up, there is no indication yet that Asian airlines will relax the mask mandate.
Masks are necessary only in crowded places. Now that the majority of the world’s population has been vaccinated, the likelihood of contracting any virus has dropped to a minimum.
International travel has resumed and travelers can now once again enjoy the luxury of travel. The downside is that not all airlines have lifted their COVID travel restrictions, especially the mask ban. If you are traveling on an Asian airline, you must wear a mask throughout the flight, even though some Western airlines have lifted their restrictions. There is no indication that Asian airlines will relax their mask requirement until the infection rate in Asia steadily declines.