Coronavirus: Airports make face masks mandatory for passengers

Posted: 4 May 2020 4:43 pm

Face mask airport

3 major British airports are insisting that people cover their faces when travelling.

Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports will this week insist all passengers wear face coverings, with homemade masks or scarves accepted.

While the majority of the population are unable to travel as a result of grounded flights, more than 100,000 passengers are still going through UK airports each week.

The unilateral move – the first of its kind among UK airports – comes as ministers are accused of being slow to plan for how air travel could resume when the lockdown is lifted.

Official UK government advice has not yet changed and masks have not been recommended. However, in his daily government briefing last week, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, suggested face masks “will be useful” as the UK comes out of lockdown.

“I do think face coverings will be useful, both for epidemiological reasons, but also for giving people confidence that they can go back to work. And you will hear more about that next week,” Johnson said.

As well as face masks, the three airports will ask passengers to wear gloves and declare themselves fit for travel before entering. Temperature checks are also being trialled. It is thought passengers will be expected to bring their own gloves and masks, but the airports say they will have some personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies on standby.

According to the Manchester Airports Group, which operates the three airports, the measures have been taken in order to make travellers feel more comfortable about using airports.

“The measures are designed to help the small number of passengers currently making essential journeys through our airports feel safer and more confident about flying at this time,” a Manchester Airport spokesman said.

The move comes after Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon last week suggested people should wear a face mask in public spaces, such as on public transport or when entering a supermarket.

“There may be some benefit in wearing a cloth face covering if you enter an enclosed space where you will come into contact with multiple people and safe social distancing is difficult,” she said.

Earlier this month, 100 leading doctors also called for the use of face masks in public, while London mayor Sadiq Khan lobbied for the compulsory use of non-medical face masks in the capital.

Face masks are already compulsory in the likes of China, Japan and South Korea. Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain have also followed suit more recently.

For now, the coronavirus advice from Public Health England and the British government remains the same, although this is likely to shift in the coming weeks, as the country prepares to ease lockdown measures.

The current guidelines are:

  • Stay at home whenever possible
  • Only go out for essentials such as food and medical supplies, work or exercise once a day
  • Stay two metres away from others at all times
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as often as you can

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