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First Covid-tested flight lands in Rome from New York

The first "Covid-tested" flight arrived in Rome from New York on Wednesday, an initiative designed to open up air routes between Europe and the United States blocked by the pandemic.

First Covid-tested flight lands in Rome from New York
Passengers just landed in Rome from New York on an Alitalia flight wait to undergo a rapid antigen swab test for Covid-19 on December 9th. AFP
Passengers had to show they had returned a negative virus test within 48 hours of getting on the Alitalia flight from John F. Kennedy airport, and were required to take another test on arrival at Rome's Fiumicino.
 
All 100 passengers on board came up negative, according to the AGI news agency, allowing them to avoid a 14-day quarantine required of other arrivals
from the United States.
 
 
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
 
Among them was Chiara, an Italian living in the United States who is visiting her parents with her husband and seven-month-old son.
 
“It's been almost a year since we returned to Italy,” she told AFP.
 
“In April our son was born and so far no one from our family has met him. That's why we are so thrilled.”
 
Everyone on board still had to wear masks and replace them every four hours, according to airport authorities.
 
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
 
“This is an extraordinary experiment, because it rekindles hope for air travel, mobility and the economy even in the presence of coronavirus,” said
Nicola Zingaretti, head of the Lazio region that includes Rome.
 
The move follows the launch in September of so-called virus-free domestic flights between Rome and financial capital Milan.
 
The introduction of these flights does not necessarily mean the rules on travel to Italy from the US are set to be changed, however.
 
Restrictions remain on non-essential travel to Italy from the US and many other non-EU countries.
 
 
Under tightened rules over the Christmas period, all arrivals from overseas between December 21st and January 6th will be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival regardless of whether or not they are able to show a negative test result.
 
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

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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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