Transportation Mask Mandates around the World

John Ryu, Staff Writer

The U.S. airline mask mandate expiration was originally set for April 18 but was extended to May 3 due to paused court decisions. However, after the decision was made, there continues to be an argument about whether or not people should still wear masks. Many U.S. public transportation systems, including airlines,railways, and Ubers dropped the mask mandate requirement  on April 19. This likely began when Florida state stated that the mask mandate is not effective anymore. Starting from the east coast, companies providing railway service claimed that they would not require a mask mandate. America’s biggest car sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, also dropped the mask mandate law and allowed passengers and drivers to wear masks optionally. Delta, Alaska, Southwest, and United Airlines changed their mask mandate law within 24 hours of the mask mandate law being passed. Airlines seem to be happy about the new announcement. However, the average daily number of new confirmed cases has recently increased. According to the New York Times, the average daily number of newly confirmed patients in the US was 29,152 as of the April 18, up 43 percent from two weeks ago.

There are also different opinions about the mask mandate law becoming optional among citizens. Freshman Austin Won says, “Confirmed cases in the U.S. are decreasing day by day and it’s been a few months since the mask mandate was optional so I think it is a great decision.” On the other hand, junior Jamie Lu thinks, “Airlines do not care about your safety, they only care about your money.” which is an understandable opinion looking at how fast airlines changed their policy. Senior Julia Kim says, “It is their choice. As long as they do not spread COVID-19, I do not have problem with their choice.” According to The New York Times some customers are celebrating airline dropping mask mandate law. “I’m happy that this decision means I’m going to see your smiling face, but I understand that some people have mixed emotions,” Alaska Airlines said. “Please remember that wearing a mask while traveling is still an option,” respecting the decision whether customers wear mask or not.  

On either side, there are a lot of groups of people fearing and worrying that dropping the mask mandate law will cause more people to become infected and exposed to COVID-19. Sophomore Nichel Zoe says, “It is great that things are starting to go back to normal but I feel like airlines are rushing on the mask mandate, which could lead us back to wearing masks.” President Joe Biden responded to a question about his opinion on whether people should wear a mask or not, “It is up to your judgment,” and said that you cannot force people to wear a mask.

The ministry of justice said that if the CDC decides that the mask mandate law is required, they will send letters to the court to raise the possibility of the mask mandate law coming back.

Mask mandate policy is a huge issue sharply divided among people. According to a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation last month, 48 percent of passengers were in favor of extending the mandatory wearing of masks in public transportation, and 52 percent of other passengers were opposed to it. 

The Washington Post said, “People who belong to the exposed group or have completed vaccinations tend to support the mandatory wearing of masks, especially according to political tendencies.” which shows that vaccinators care more about safety than others who haven’t got vaccinated.

On May, 11 (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) EASA and (Ethiopian Community Development Council) ECDC announced that starting on May 16,  people would not need to wear masks on airplanes and airports. They also said that they decided to drop the mask mandate because most countries in Europe are dropping it. however, to prevent COVID-19, wearing masks is still the best way. Nevertheless, mask mandates could vary depending on country’s’ policies of airline’s policies. 

In fact, despite EASA’s decision to drop the mask mandate,15 countries including France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Latvia, Cyprus, Lithuania, the Czech republic, Luxembourg, Estonia, malta, Germany, Portugal, Greece, and the Netherlands are still required to wear masks. As well as countries outside of Europe like China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Switzerland, Thailand, and Argentina.

As many countries do not require masks anymore and new confirmed cases decrease continuously. In a few countries in Asia, petition have been raised to urge the dropping of the mandatory wearing of masks indoor and outdoor as the number of new confirmed cases reaching 100,000 for two consecutive days. 

The South Korean government responded by saying that they will try to make the mask mandate optional by this summer. Like Europe and the US, Asia countries are also active in easing COVID-19 quarantine regulations. In particular, Singapore has significantly eased its policy since May 1, so all travelers who have completed vaccination no longer need to apply for a vaccine treble pass to approve entry to Singapore and purchase COVID-19 travel insurance. In addition, you do not have to retake a separate COVID-19 test after entering Singapore.

It would be a matter of time for countries to drop mask mandate globally. Since there are huge number of vacinnator and decent amount of mask wearers. Hopefully we can see changes in the future.