Travellers will soon be able to wander mask-free within Australian airports as the nation is set to scrap mandatory airport mask mandates at midnight on Friday, June 17.
Though travellers will still be required to wear their masks on all flights, according to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the nation’s top health officials, the use of face masks will no longer be necessary for travellers and airport workers as many indoor settings have already lifted the mandate inside their venues.
“This changed advice comes after the AHPPC has reviewed the current Covid-19 situation in Australia and considers it no longer proportionate to mandate mask-wearing in the terminals,” Health Minister Mark Butler and Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said in a joint statement.
The statement also highlights that while the mask mandate has been lifted the AHPPC continues to “strongly recommended Australians continue to wear masks as a key measure to help minimise the spread of Covid-19 and influenza”.
“Masks help us protect the most vulnerable in our community who are unable to get vaccinated and people who have a higher risk of developing severe illness.”
Australia’s lift on masks inside airports comes as welcome news for airport bosses who have been demanding the mandate to be removed.
Just last week Canberra Airport threatened to take legal action against the ACT government if action wasn’t taken to end the mask mandate.
Canberra airport CEO Stephen Byron argued that the mandate was “unnecessary” and was not in line with the ACT human rights act.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Canberra Airport had previously claimed that the mask mandate was no longer justifiable by the territory’s Covid-19 regulations.
“Moreover the mandate creates a tangible stigma around attending Canberra Airport, sending the false message to would-be travellers that visiting the airport carries a greater risk than visiting other ACT premises that are not subject to mask mandates including pubs, nightclubs, strip clubs and brothels,” said solicitor Andrew Corkhill of Quinn Emanuel lawyers.
However, some members of the public have taken to social media to express their disapproval of the news.
Australia’s so called top Health Officials are recommending dropping the mask mandate at airports as early as this Friday. Yet recommending they be worn on planes! Stupefyingly disjointed reasoning IMHO, thousands daily being infected and double digit deaths. Covid still rampant.
— Brendon Schurmann (@rearwindow57) June 14, 2022
Look at this photo.
I was in Cambodia recently a 3rd world country, now 30+ day covid free. Travelling in Asia, airports, airlines I felt comfortable.
Australia, masks mandatory in airports, public transport.
So many aren’t. I was genuinely scared. https://t.co/f7W7kBjw9t
— JPMasters (He/Him/They/Them) (@JPMasters) June 14, 2022
But Virgin Australia‘s Chief Jayne Hrdlicka claimed travellers were “safer in an aeroplane than you are in a supermarket”.
“The reality is that on an aeroplane you’re as safe as you could be anywhere because of the quality of the infiltration system,” Hrdlicka said.
“We need to make sure that everybody feels comfortable doing it so it should be a blanket (rule) across the country, not state by state.
“All the American carriers are now mask-free — it’s your choice. Some passengers choose to continue to wear them and some choose not and that’s probably where we’ll land.”
Australia’s update on airport mask mandates also comes a month after the European Union stopped recommending mask-wearing in their airports in May.