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Coronavirus: As COVID-19 travel guidelines ease around the world, here's what you should know about wearing masks on plane – Times of India

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Over two years have passed by since the novel coronavirus wrecked our lives in many ways. It brought along several changes, restricted our day to day functions and also made face masks an essential part of our lifestyle. It is almost impossible to think of leaving our houses without putting on a mask these days. However, on February 25, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new mask guidelines stating that it was not mandatory for almost 70 percent of the American population to wear masks in indoor spaces.

The news comes at a time, when India’s National Capital, Delhi also lifted all its COVID-related restrictions. While wearing masks continues to be compulsory in public places, the mask mandates aren’t applicable for those traveling together in private four-wheeler vehicles.

Additionally, with the fall in the number of COVID cases, several countries have eased their travel restrictions. This has further prompted a carefree air. That said, for those who are looking forward to air travel in the near future, here’s what you should know about wearing masks on planes.

Also read: Coronavirus: 1 in 20 people are likely to experience THIS side effect from COVID-19 booster shot
Studies in the past have suggested that in-flight transmission of the SARs-COV-2 virus is possible but “a relatively rare event.”

As per a 2020 study initiated by the the U.S. Department of Defense and conducted by researchers from Boeing and United Airlines found that the ventilation and air filtration systems minimized the risk of airborne transmission to a great extent. However, the research did not consider other probabilities including direct exposure to contaminated aerosol droplets, walking on the aisles or close contact between two people.

Having said that, a lot of factors can determine how risky air travel may be. From vaccination status of the fellow passengers to the duration of the flight to the amount of viral load a person is carrying, if incase they are infected, all of these things can affect the level of risk a person is exposed to.

Also read: Coronavirus: As Delhi withdraws all COVID restrictions, here are some standard precautions you must take on your own

The Omicron wave may have subsided for now, but the variant of concern along with other deadly strains including the Delta are still very prevalent and continue to cause illness.

Experts believe wearing masks in outdoor places and especially while traveling is crucial.

Although air travel may be a “relatively” lower risk activity, given the ventilation and air filtration systems, experts suggest taking precautionary measures and covering one’s face with well-fitted masks reduces the risk of contracting the virus even more.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “COVID-19 is often more severe in people who are older than 60 years or who have health conditions like lung or heart disease, diabetes or conditions that affect their immune system.”

That said, wearing masks or maintaining social distance is one of the most effective ways to curb the spread. Even if you’re healthy and do not fall under the high risk category of people, it is important that you take all the measures so as to safeguard those who could be more prone to severe illness and hospitalization.
The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has approved several types of face masks, of which N95 respirators are the most widely available. The CDC recommends a mask that is multi-layered, ensures both nose and mouth coverage and is well-fitted.

Francoise M. Blachere, MSc., Research Biologist of the NIOSH says, “The performance of face masks as devices that control infection spread depends upon both the ability of the mask material to filter aerosols and on how well the mask fits the wearer.”
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