International commercial air travel was a significant factor in the rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020. Understandably, most national governments responded by requiring the passenger aviation industry to adopt masking requirements. As attention to COVID has waned (and unruly anti-mask passengers caused havoc), many nations have gotten rid of their mask requirements in planes and airports. However, with a seasonal COVID surge upon us, Brazil is re-instating its mask mandate for air travelers.
Simple Flying reports that Brazil is bringing back a mask mandate in the country’s airports and on domestic and international flights taking off or landing within the country. Public health officials urged the return of protective measures, citing recent infection data and the seasonal nature of COVID. Brazil, the largest nation in South America, had only dropped its mask requirement for air travel in August 2022.
Holiday-season travel is expected to amplify the seasonal uptick in COVID infections, which have been observed to increase in the colder months. While Brazil’s initial mandate also banned in-flight meals, the new guidelines allow food service. The new mandate comes into effective this Friday, November 25th.
Alex Campos, director of Brazil’s national agency for health regulations, said:
“The use of masks in higher risk environments, due to their characteristics of confinement, circulation and agglomeration of people, represents an act of citizenship and protection of the community and aims to mitigate the risk of transmission and contagion of the disease.”
In the United States, the federal mask mandate for air travelers was lifted in April 2022 after a federal judge in Florida ruled that it was illegal. Every US-based airline has since made masks optional for passengers. American carriers still advise customers to follow the national requirements when landing in countries like Brazil that have maintained or reinstated mask requirements.